July 12, 2012The Greensboro City Council seems determined to spend more than any other municipality to dispose of its garbage.
The taxpayers of Greensboro subsidize the cost of waste management companies that bring garbage to the Greensboro transfer station, which is just the last in a long line of unnecessary expenses incurred by the City of Greensboro.
First the city closed the White Street Landfill at a cost to the citizens of about $7 million a year. Now the City Council is in the process of rejecting the low bid to dispose of the garbage and spend an extra $1.2 million year. In addition, it has been discovered that Greensboro is subsidizing garbage management companies to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Finally, the City Council simply refuses to sell or use the methane produced at the White Street Landfill, which is estimated to be worth about $2 million a year.
It is an incredible tale of incompetence by a governing body.
Greensboro pays about $47.50 a ton to dispose of the garbage that is brought to the city transfer station on Burnt Poplar Road. By comparison, High Point pays about $28 a ton to dispose of its garbage and Winston-Salem pays $32 to $36 a ton.
All the rates are indefinite in part because of fuel riders in the contracts where the cost varies as fuel prices go up and down.
But while Greensboro incurs a cost of $47.50 a ton to dispose of waste brought to the transfer station, it only charges $41 a ton to people and companies that dump garbage at the transfer station.
This means the citizens of Greensboro essentially gave Waste Industries $202,104 in the last fiscal year when Waste Industries dumped 31,093 tons of garbage at the Greensboro transfer station.
Waste Industries is the company that state Sen. Don Vaughan, the husband of City Councilmember Nancy Vaughan, worked for that kept Nancy Vaughan from voting on the White Street Landfill issue until the very last vote. Don Vaughan, who is an attorney, reportedly no longer works for Waste Industries. Don Vaughan did not run for reelection and will also not be a state senator after January 2013.
Waste Management, the largest waste services company in the US, also received a nice gift from Greensboro taxpayers to the tune of $181,064 last year.
Even Republic Waste Services, which currently disposes Greensboro's trash and has its own transfer station and landfill, used the Greensboro transfer station for 1,973 tons. So Republic benefitted to the tune of $12,824 from the taxpayers of Greensboro.
The question that nobody seems to be able to answer is: Why is Greensboro paying for waste hauling companies? Greensboro pays Republic millions every year to dispose of its garbage. Why should Greensboro turn around and charge Republic below cost for disposing of its garbage?
The city accepts each year about 100,000 tons of garbage that is not brought in on city trucks at the transfer station, which means the taxpayers of Greensboro are subsidizing all the garbage haulers in the area for a total of about $650,000 a year. Greensboro is not subsidizing weekly newspapers or any other small business around here, but it is subsidizing some billion dollar waste management companies, a bunch of smaller ones and even towns like Gibsonville that use the transfer station.
City Councilmember Jim Kee is a liaison to the city's Waste Management and Recycling Task Force and is the councilmember that stopped the council from holding a special meeting to sign a long-term contract with Republic Waste Services regardless of cost. Kee keeps asking why the city would want to pay more to have its garbage put in a landfill and hasn't gotten a good answer yet.
Kee said, "I was surprised that we would be subsidizing trash. I was very surprised to find that to be the case."
Kee added, "Maybe its because we would lose the business. But losing business that you are losing money on, that doesn't seem like much of a loss to me."
He said the only justifiable reason for subsidizing the cost of the waste management companies was to offset the contribution they make to the community, and he really couldn't understand why the city would want to do that. Kee said he was told the rates were set during the administration of former City Manager Mitch Johnson, who was fired at 9:27 p.m. on March 3, 2009.
Kee said, "In my opinion it has to be corrected."
Councilmember Trudy Wade, when asked why the city was subsidizing waste management companies at the landfill, said, "I guess it's so they can keep more employees working for the city. It's the only thing I can figure out. What other reason is there?"
She said it was no wonder Republic said that Greensboro could save money by using the Republic transfer station, since Greensboro loses money with every ton of trash that goes through the city-owned transfer station.
A transfer station is exactly what it sounds like. The Greensboro garbage trucks that pick up garbage from cans in front of houses go to the transfer station and pull onto its second story and dump the garbage on a cement floor. The truck pulls out and a bulldozer pushes the trash into a big hole in the floor that has an open topped tractor-trailer under it on the first floor. Once the trailer is full, it is taken to the landfill in Montgomery County.
One of the reasons given for Greensboro not accepting the low bid on the disposal of its garbage on either the long term or the short-term contract from Waste Connections was that people from the town of Troy complained about trucks going through town. The trucks going to the Uwharrie landfill already go through Troy, so it was a little hard to understand, but as always you have to follow the money.
Montgomery County owns the Uwharrie landfill, which is operated by Republic Services. Because Montgomery County owns the landfill the county gets a fee for each ton of garbage that is dumped there. The fees for Montgomery County just from Greensboro's garbage total over $300,000 a year, which means if Greensboro decided to take the low bid and dump its garbage in Anson County, the Montgomery County commissioners would have a $300,000 hole in the 2012-2013 budget they just passed.
Montgomery County has a budget of about $26 million, so starting out the year with a $300,000 hole is considerable.
The folks in Montgomery County had 300,000 reasons for complaining about the Waste Connections garbage going through Troy but not about the Republic Services garbage, because Montgomery County makes a lot of money on that Republic Services garbage. And when you're making money the garbage just doesn't smell as bad.
But isn't this the kind of information that a competent consultant hired to compare the cost of different options would provide to the City Council? There is a huge difference between an elected official making a legitimate complaint about increased truck traffic and a commissioner who is just trying to protect the county's pocketbook finding a reason to complain. According to an article in the June 6 edition of the Montgomery Herald, Chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Jack Morris explained that he had been working with Greensboro and "said he and other commissioners have 'worked hard to try and save that relationship.' Morris has spoken with Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins and others, pointing out the advantages of continuing to use the county owned landfill."
Perkins hasn't shared the reason for the Montgomery County commissioners' concerns about traffic with the rest of the City Council, at least not in open session when the public would have a chance to find out what was really happening is that it is all about money not safety.
So all those complaints that the City Council talked about were just about Montgomery County losing revenue. Waste Connections should have asked the Anson County commissioners to the Greensboro City Council meeting because no doubt Anson County will benefit if Greensboro's garbage is transported down there.
Now would be a good time for someone to come forward and explain why Perkins, and Councilmembers Nancy Vaughan, Zack Matheny and Dianne Bellamy-Small want to spend more money than is necessary to dispose of Greensboro's garbage.