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City to solicit bids to privatize garbage and trash pickup again

The collection of garbage and trash within the City of Cairo could soon be put in the hands of a private company as the city council considers exiting from the business.
At the Feb. 28 city council meeting, Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton mentioned to the council he would like to solicit proposals for privatizing not only the household and commercial garbage collection, but also the roadside trash collection service.
The life of the city’s sanitary landfill is quickly coming to a close, which prompted the discussion last month.
On Monday night, Addleton said at the first of April he would like to issue a request for proposals for privatizing the garbage and trash pickup.
This is not the first time the city has looked into privatizing the garbage collection service. Back in 2015, the city leaders contemplated outsourcing the residential and commercial garbage collection, but not the curbside trash pickup. Bids were solicited and ultimately rejected.
Based on the bids received in 2015, the city’s solid waste fund would operate at a deficit of approximately $48,000 annually. That was Addleton’s projection based on the assumption that city personnel in the solid waste division would be cut from 10 to six, overall costs would be reduced and capital for the purchase of new equipment eliminated.
The city services approximately 3,400 residential containers and 230 commercial containers.
Addleton says the time to begin considering outsourcing corresponds with the upcoming closure of the city’s sanitary landfill. According to city officials, the life of the landfill is about three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years.
During preliminary discussions at a budget workshop last month, the city manager said the city has a choice of either contracting with the City of Thomasville or Decatur County to deposit solid waste in either of their lined landfills if the city does not privatize the solid waste collection service. He also suggested that if the decision was made to outsource garbage collection, the vendor could decide where the garbage would be taken.
Addleton said it was a “mistake” not to solicit proposals that included the roadside trash collection back in 2015.
The city manager said he would make it a requirement that a private provider purchase all of the city’s solid waste equipment including rollout garbage cans and dumpsters as well as to use the city landfill as long as it remained open.
He said he would like to move forward unless the council objected.
Councilman Jerry Cox shared his experience from privatizing services with the Grady County School System, from which he retired. “Once you get out of the business you have got to be fully committed, because if you ever decide to get back in you’ve got to buy all that stuff again. It’s something we’ll really have to mull over,” Cox said.
Mayor Bobby Burns suggested that whatever the city sells the vehicles and equipment for be put in escrow to cover that cost if the city decided to go back into solid waste collection.
Councilman Cox warned it would not be enough money.
Mayor Burns also warned that if the city exits the business the residents would be at the mercy of the company selected to provide the service when rate increases were issued. “The city would have to pass the additional cost along to the residents,” Mayor Burns noted.
Addleton suggested that an escalation clause could be included in the contract and said that the service could also be put back out for bid at the end of the contract term.
“It’s a lot to consider and cost is a concern, but the first step is to get the cost,” Cox said.
The city manager said that a lot of municipalities had outsourced solid waste collection and predicted that Cairo had only remained in the business because it was operating its own landfill. “If we didn’t have the landfill I’m not sure there would be a cost benefit,” Addleton said.
In addition to privatizing solid waste collection, the council did not hesitate or stop Addleton from moving forward with soliciting proposals to privatize the maintenance of city cemeteries.
At the Feb. 28 budget workshop Addleton had also mentioned the prospect. On Monday night he said he was ready to advertise for bids so that he could evaluate the costs.
The city will be seeking proposals for cemetery maintenance for Cairo City Cemetery, Greenwood and Crestview Cemetery.
Addleton says it is “tedious” work and is costing the city money.
The city manager is not including Forest Lawn Cemetery, the city’s newest, because he said it is not as “intense” and can be mowed “pretty easily.”

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