City talks garbage changes, possible job losses

By TJ Caudill -

HAZARD— The City of Hazard commissioners called a special meeting on Thursday, July 16, at Hazard City Hall. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss solid waste management and address a new draft amendment to the solid waste ordinance.

The new draft amendment, if it passes, would allow the City of Hazard to have the ability to bid out to use a franchise for the collection of solid waste within the city limits. The city currently handles all of its own solid waste collection, without the assistance of the county.

Lori Reynolds, the assistant city attorney, spoke at the beginning of the meeting.

“What we have noticed is if we have the franchise, if there is a bidding process, there could be a great savings to the city, and of course that would benefit the city,” she said.

Reynolds went on to say that if the city enters into a franchise situation, then it would enter into an agreement with Perry County called the Solid Waste Agreement, which Reynolds drafted. The purpose of the agreement would be so that the city of Hazard is compliant with the Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS). The agreement would also allow the city to give Perry County the permission to draft the 5 year plan, and the city would operate under the 5 year plan, but the county would give the city the permission to operate their own solid waste system.

“The most important question this answers is, the county of Perry has absolutely no authority over the city’s solid waste system. It has no authority now, and it will not have any authority if we bid that out,” Reynolds said.

Grady Varney, city manager, also spoke to the commissioners on the issue.

“In order to not raise our rates, and that is your all’s decision, right now I’d say we go to once a week pick up, we could keep it about where we are at, and if it goes to twice a week, I did some cost analysis for what we are doing now, we are going to have to be in the $24-$27 range, and, to my knowledge, our garbage rates have never been increased, even though the cost goes up,” Varney said.

“We have a waste management problem in the whole county,” Varney said, adding that the county is only billing half their customers for garbage services, and this problem is one of the reasons why Hazard is in negotiations with Perry County to take over their billing, giving the City of Hazard an additional income. The county has between 8,000 – 9,000 water customers, and only billing 4,000 garbage customers.

A few of the issues the commission would have to decide on, at a later date, would be how often trash would be picked up, and if the council needed to raise garbage rates.

“Of course if it is twice a week and we bid it out, it will be a higher cost. If we go down to once a week, then that will be a lesser cost. That is up for discussion,” Reynolds said.

Commissioner Susan Brotherton asked if a franchise’s bid is accepted, would the franchise be able to set the collection rate, or would that be left up to the city.

Reynolds responded by saying that either a franchise could write in a collection rate and see if the city wanted to accept, or the city could set the price and the bid, and the city would find out if any franchises would want to pick up the bid.

Varney also noted that new waste management board of the county will be strictly enforcing customers to paying their garbage bills.

In response to Commissioner Brotherton asked if the current 16 solid waste management employees would be able to keep their jobs.

“In the bid, we have already stated that within the bid we are going to ask that we have employee retainage, at least give them the first shot at the jobs. If they want quality, or if there are not enough jobs, we can’t guarantee, but we are asking and putting it in the bid that they look towards the current city employees,” Reynolds said. “I anticipate people losing their jobs.”

The commissioner voted yes to amend the ordinance, which means that the commissioner doesn’t have to have a bid, but allows for a bid in the future. If it passes a second vote after a public hearing, then the comission could move onto a bidding process.

TJ Caudill can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.

By TJ Caudill

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