County commission accepts Amwaste bid despite service concerns, monthly rate to increase

Published 7:57 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022

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There has been much to talk about on the topic of trash removal in Chambers County over the past year. Much of that talk has not been favorable for the county’s current provider, Amwaste.

However, the current contract is set to expire on July 31 and the county only received one bid, and it came from Amwaste.

For that reason, Commissioner James Williams asked county attorney Skip McCoy if the commission would be out of place to rebid the contract. McCoy said the county would be within its rights to do so but warned that time was of the essence.

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“We have that right,” McCoy said. “The only problem is our current contract expires on July 31. We have complete authority to reject all bids, rebid, whatever. But if we don’t have somebody in place on Aug. 1, we are going to have more calls.”

Aside from the legal obligations the county is required to fulfill in order to begin the bidding process again, McCoy pointed out that transition would take some time and is oftentimes messy.

“Transition is not pretty,” McCoy told the commission. “Transition is probably the worst aspect of when you transfer from one company to the other.”

Williams also asked McCoy if the new contract could include stipulations that would penalize the trash removal company for customer complaints.

“In the contract we sign, can we put some stipulations in it … what I am trying to say here is we got folks paying for service, but they’re not getting the service,” Williams said. “But, we don’t have anything in the contract to say, OK, if you don’t provide service, you’re going to get penalized.”

McCoy told the VTN that the contract presented in the bid package does include penalties for service disruptions.

Commissioner Charlie Williams told the commission he felt that there was no other choice but to approve the bid, stating the county was “between and rock and a hard place.”

As a result, the commission unanimously approved the bid from Amwaste during its Monday meeting, but the vote was not without reservations.

The new bid includes a rate increase of $8.73 per month, bringing the total monthly cost to $26.01 per month. The increase, Amwaste Chief Operating Officer Randy Lee said, is due to rising costs.

“Given our current fuel prices and labor rates required to get the people and keep them, I don’t think our current agreement allows us to do that,” Lee said during the April 4 commission meeting.

Fuel costs have continued to rise since April and have shown no signs of slowing.

In that same meeting, District Manager Michael Cosman told the commission that the company has been dolling out incentives and salary increases to keep people on staff, increasing the expense it takes to collect the county’s trash.

In an April 4 meeting, Chambers County Code Enforcement’s Macy Whorten also addressed the concerns her office receives on a regular basis regarding trash removal in Chambers County.

The concerns Whorten brought to that discussion come from many complaints from residents in Chambers County. Those complaints range from missed pick up to not receiving cans. Some of which could stem from staffing issues being experienced by the company.

“There’s not a day that goes by where we do not receive a trash complaint, whether it be trash not being picked up or not getting a can,” Whorten told the commission and Amwaste personnel. “With that being said, I understand, and I know that y’all [Amwaste] had employees shortages, people are sick, y’all had issues with the trucks, but I’m being told one thing over and over and over, and it’s not happening.”

Whorten said some of the complaints are not only that trash pick-up days are inconsistent but frequently missed altogether. Amwaste does not make a special trip to retrieve the trash when a customer is missed. Instead, they wait until the next pick-up day. Whorten said that cannot happen.

“With the trash not being picked up [complaint], as long as the service is being provided, we can deal with it not being on the exact day that pickup is supposed to be because we understand that certain issues arise,” Whorten said. “However, in the county, we can’t leave it out for days on end because we do have animals in the county that are not in the city or don’t roam in the city that get into trash. And then we have trash all over the roads, and we have another issue at hand. So that is an issue. Often, when people call and say, ‘hey, my trash has not been picked up,’ it’s not just for that person, it’s for the whole road.”

Delayed pick-up has been a longstanding issue with trash services in the county over the years. When the current contract was up for bid in 2019, then Commission chair, David Eastridge said he hoped whoever earned the contract, “should be willing to do the job correctly.”

The county is not the only entity concerned with trash removal. The City of Valley mayor and council have also had discussions regarding the current service being provided by Amwaste.

During the council’s May 9 meeting, Council Member Jim Jones said he is continuing to get complaints about trash pickups being late. Planning & Development Director Carter said his office gets complaints almost every day.

“They are still having problems getting the help they need to do this,” he said.

“Is the city satisfied with the job being done by Amwaste?” Jones asked the mayor.

“No,” Riley replied, “and we haven’t been since they have had the service.”

“We should look at other options,” Jones said.

In Lanett, Mayor Jamie Heard also addressed the issues of trash removal during the May 5 meeting of the mayor and council. Heard said Lanett is not alone in getting complaints about the garbage service that is being provided. Amwaste is the provider for Lanett, West Point, Valley, LaFayette and rural Chambers County.

“It’s my understanding they are understaffed, and the workers they do have are having to work long hours,” Heard said. “That’s why there are delays in getting trash picked up.”

Heard said he was looking to have a community-wide meeting in the near future to discuss something that will be welcomed by area seniors as very good news.

“We will be giving them some information that will be very helpful for them,” he said.