Commission approves automated garbage pickup
by JAMES PHILLIPS
Apr 02, 2013 | 2195 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Workers with the Walker County Solid Waste Department currently use a rear-loading garbage truck. County commissioners approved a measure Monday that is the first step in transitioning to automated residential garbage pickup in the city. – Photo by: James Phillips.
Workers with the Walker County Solid Waste Department currently use a rear-loading garbage truck. County commissioners approved a measure Monday that is the first step in transitioning to automated residential garbage pickup in the city. – Photo by: James Phillips.
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In an attempt to improve safety and efficiency in the county’s solid waste department, the Walker County Commission approved Monday the first step toward switching to an automated residential garbage pickup for area citizens.

Commissioners gave Chairman Billy Luster approval to negotiate a deal to purchase automated trucks and trash cans. Luster said he would not commit the county to anything before running it by the group first.

“I do think this is the right thing to do,” Luster said. “This is going to save the county a lot of money.”

The county currently uses rear-loading garbage trucks, using three men on each truck (a driver and two standing on the back). The switch to automated trucks will allow for only one worker per truck.

“The trucks will pick up the cans — we will just have a driver,” Luster said. “Nobody is going to be laid off due to this decision. We’ve already lost positions due to attrition. We have had workers from all the districts helping out with solid waste.”

Larry Hathcoat, landfill supervisor, said he is in favor of the move.

“This is absolutely fantastic for us,” he said. “It will completely change the way we pick up garbage in the county, and it’s something that has been needed for some time.”

District 2 Commissioner Dan Wright said he had attempted to make the switch to automated garbage pickup during the last administration.

“This is something that has been important for me for a long time,” he said.

Wright said the solid waste department’s budget has been in the negative by as much as $400,000 for several years.

“It’s not too often that you make money on solid waste, but this move should at least put us where we can break even,” he said.

A cost for purchasing automated trucks and cans for citizens has not been officially determined, but commissioners said it could be millions of dollars. Commissioners said the cost would be offset by the savings.

“We are looking at totally revamping solid waste,” District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said. “The guys in that department have outdated equipment and are now riding on the back of a rear loader, which is highly unsafe. All five of us took a day a while back to ride around with the guys and help as much as we can. We saw what they are up against. This is about their safety first. The move will also make us more efficient. I definitely believe it is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

In other action, the commission:

•Tabled decisions on coal tax distribution and supernumerary retirement.

Davis said, “I feel we are wasting time on these issues when we could be looking at things that are more important at this time.”

Luster said he had spoken to members of the Walker County Legislative Delegation.

“They said we would be hard-pressed to get these items approved during this legislative session,” he said. “They only have 14 days left.”

•Tabled a vote on an agreement between the county and Greg Harper for a motocross event at the old airport.