GAINESVILLE, Ga. (Dec. 1, 2022) – After 10-plus years of providing a high level of service for the same fixed price, the City of Gainesville says – with the rising cost of providing solid waste services – the time has come to make an adjustment, either to the service or the fee.
Effective Jan. 23, 2023, and to avoid increasing fees for garbage and recycling customers at this time, the City will modify the frequency of trash collection from twice weekly to once weekly at the curb, but lower the monthly fee for having an extra 96-gallon garbage can from $25 to $15.
“Gainesville has been especially proud to offer top-tier solid waste services for some time now, but unfortunately, the costs of providing that level of service is no longer sustainable with our fee structure,” said City Manager Bryan Lackey.
The Gainesville City Council heard a presentation from Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky at its latest work session Thursday, Dec. 1, where he explained in depth the challenges faced by his department, which includes the Solid Waste Division, in recent years. The service adjustment, which will come in the form of a change to the City’s solid waste ordinance, will come up for a vote at Council’s next regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Rising equipment, disposal costs
Over the last decade-plus (since 2010), the City of Gainesville has tried its best to provide the same level of solid waste services without imposing a fee increase. But like other communities, the City has witnessed the price of providing such services skyrocket – and in more ways than one.
To acquire the proper equipment needed to fulfill solid waste services according to City standards, Gainesville has seen costs rise by almost 70%, while landfill fees have risen by 81%. For example, a garbage-packer truck that cost $150,000 in 2009 now costs $300,000 and a knuckle boom loader that cost $120,000 in 2009 now costs $275,000. And like all other Americans, the City has also paid more for fuel, the price for which hit a record high of $4.49/gallon in June 2022 (AAA).
In September 2021, Lackey brought to Council’s attention that Hall County Government planned to raise its tipping fees at the landfill, which took effect in October 2021. Now, to dispose of household garbage at the Hall County Landfill, Gainesville pays $60/ton up from $33/ton – an 81% increase. To dispose of leaves and tree limbs now costs the City double, $100/load up from $50/load. This same trend continues with curbside rubbish disposal, which costs Gainesville $40/ton up from $29.50/ton.
Increases such as these have forced the City to steadily increase the number of dollars budgeted for the Solid Waste Division, from an expense budget of approximately $2,426,000 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 to roughly $4,175,000 in FY 23.
Like all other public/private organizations across the United States, the City of Gainesville must pay more for reliable personnel, salaries for which have risen a minimum of 3% annually for the last 12 years. Still, although Gainesville is offering higher wages, interest has failed to rise with them.
“Similar to other municipalities, the City of Gainesville has been working through staffing shortages,” Rotalsky said. “Unfortunately, the Gainesville Public Works Department is not exempt from these challenges and the Solid Waste Division is especially challenged as garbage and recycling collection are both time and labor intensive.”
Currently, Public Works has 12 jobs posted, with half belonging to the Solid Waste Division. Positions (both full time and part time) include Solid Waste CDL Operators, Solid Waste Collection Workers, a Solid Waste Operator and a Solid Waste Route Supervisor.
Current service level
Twice weekly, the City of Gainesville collects garbage – up to 96 gallons – from customers’ front doors, totaling a possible 192 gallons from each household every week. Customers with more than one 96-gallon receptacle pay an additional $25 monthly, which could up that volume.
Recycling, up to 35 gallons, is collected once weekly. Additionally, customers can dispose of 1 cubic yard of curbside waste and 1 cubic yard of landscape debris each week.
A monthly fee of $32.10, left unchanged since 2010, covers the twice-weekly (except holidays) garbage removal, landfill and recycling fees. Special pick-ups are made available for an additional fee paid by the customer.
Though the City currently collects garbage/recycling from customers’ front doors, the proposed ordinance change would require waste be brought to the curb for retrieval by Solid Waste Division staff. However, for those physically unable to bring their garbage/recycling curbside, the City will make available and gladly accept medical waivers signed by healthcare professionals certifying a customer’s need for continued solid waste services from their front door, whether indefinitely or temporarily. Should Council vote in favor of the ordinance change, the electronic form will be made available via gainesville.org, which customers can return to the City via email.
When will this change take effect?
The Gainesville City Council will vote for or against the ordinance change, as outlined above, at its Tuesday, Dec. 6, regular meeting slated for 5:30 p.m. in the municipal courtroom at the Gainesville Public Safety Complex, located at 535 Banks St., Gainesville. These meetings are open and the public is welcome to attend.
Adjusted pick-up routes would be released in January 2023 and the medical waiver, made available Dec. 7.