GAINESVILLE, Ga. (Dec. 6, 2022) – For the first time in nearly 13 years, the City of Gainesville has modified its solid waste services, moving garbage collection from twice weekly to once weekly effective Jan. 23, 2023. Customers will also be required to bring their trash to the curb, but recycling, curbside waste and landscape debris services will remain the same.
The unanimous action by the Gainesville City Council was taken Tuesday, Dec. 6, at its latest regular meeting after members heard from Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky at the previous week's work session about the difficulty of providing the same level of service given such drastic changes to the cost of equipment and disposal, especially over the last five years. Combine that with inflated fuel prices and the challenge of filling vacant positions, Rotalsky said, and it’s clear why the Solid Waste Division had to make a change.
“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.
Given the City recently supplied all customers with new, more substantial rolling trash receptacles – each holding 96 gallons, leadership is hopeful the transition will go smoothly. The City since lowered the monthly fee for households wanting to have an extra 96-gallon garbage can, from $25 to $15.
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 10 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 and a Solid Waste Operator.
New year, new garbage pick-up day
The City of Gainesville will release adjusted pick-up routes in January 2023 via multiple communication platforms.
Effective Jan. 23, 2023, City solid waste customers will also be required to place their garbage curbside 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.
The medical waiver will be made available Wednesday, Dec. 7, via gainesville.org, which customers can return to the City via email.