Q&A: Why the PW Change?

By now, most residents are aware that the City will be transitioning to a new trash pick-up and sanitation process, resulting in some changes for the collection of garbage, recycling, yard waste, and bulk items.  You can learn more about the changes and how they may impact you here.

Several people have asked why: “Why did Council decide to privatize solid waste services?”

As your elected representatives, it is our job to work to ensure that the City provides first-rate services to its citizens while also being fiscally responsible with your tax dollars.  The decision to contract with ACE Environmental for the collection of garbage, recycling, yard waste, and bulk items was made with that in mind (after carefully weighing other available options). This decision was the most fiscally responsible choice for the City and will improve the quality of all of our Public Works Department services.

Unfortunately, our Public Works Department has been long overlooked. During the budget workshops in March, we were provided with the following information: Public Works equipment needs to maintain the quality of solid waste service citizens expect total well over $1 million (just this year). We have garbage trucks that are no longer operating or barely hanging on. They are unsafe. We’ve been pouring money into them to try to keep them operational and safe, but we’re basically throwing that money away. Our yard debris pick-up is currently running 4 weeks (sometimes more) behind schedule because of a lack of reliable equipment (every week, I get calls from citizens about this). During peak seasons, it takes Public Works up to six weeks to collect leaves and brush.

Personnel costs to get back to the kind of regular, reliable service residents expect were estimated at $403,361 (this year alone). In contrast, privatizing solid waste removal services saves us an estimated $464,184 in annual operational costs. Given we do not need to purchase equipment, we will save an estimated $1,221,000 this year and every 5 years after. This makes a substantial difference in our city budget (not just now but in the future). Privatizing trash services also opens up resources for other areas within the Publics Works Department, such as sewer repairs.  This is an area in which we need significant improvements, improvements we could not have expected to make without additional significant expenditures in personnel. Once all of the information was in, it was clear to the Public Works Director, the City Administrator, and the Council that this was the most fiscally responsible decision (really, the only responsible decision) we could make for the city.

As we investigated options for privatization and negotiated a contract for services, we made it a priority to ensure services would be as close to what we’ve had before as possible. In our contract with ACE, we think we’ve done that.  The end result is that citizens will see a return to regular, reliable service. ACE will provide the same garbage, recycling, and yard waste services with some improvements that will actually lead to more efficient services.  There are some notable changes: Yard Waste/Tree Limbs must be bundled and cannot exceed 2 yards, Branches/Tree Trimmings must be bundled and cannot exceed 50 lbs., Leaves/Grass Trimmings must be bagged, Bulk Items are limited to 1 under 50 lbs. item per week. These changes, however, will increase the frequency in which yard waste and bulk items are collected from the current irregular schedule to weekly collections. By restricting amounts and standardizing the manner in which items are placed curbside, ACE will guarantee consistent, frequent collection.  We expect the extra effort to have a great overall impact to our community. Weekly collection improves the appearance of neighborhoods by reducing unsightly piles. We also anticipate fewer storm drain problems resulting from leaves in catch basins.

You can get additional information about the upcoming changes as well as the new collection routes online: http://www.simpsonvillepublicworks.org/news-alerts.html. Or you can call our Public Works Director, Jay Crawford at 864.967.9531. He’s the expert on this transition and is happy to speak to residents. Also, the Public Works Department will be available later this month to answer additional questions and to provide some free yard bags: Saturday, August 20 – Simpsonville Farmer’s Market from 8-12; Thursday, August 25 – Activity and Senior Center from 10-12.

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