Waste Services

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Supervisors may take second look at service for businesses

By Billy Davis

Panola County government may soon backtrack from a supervisors’ vote in December that halted commercial garbage service to about 80 customers.

“My feeling is to give it a trial, three months or six months, to see if we can get some more accounts,” Board of Supervisors president Gary Thompson said Monday.

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Other supervisors are also mulling a reversal of the board decision, Thompson said, after business owners have responded with pleas to continue the service.

Some businesses have even volunteered for an increase of their monthly fee in order to remain with the county, he said.

Panola County Solid Waste charges businesses $50 for a four-yard container, $60 for a six-yard container, and $80 for an eight-yard container. Those prices undercut private companies such as BFI and Waste Management, which business owners say require three-year contracts compared to a one-year contract with the county.

Panola County also does not add extra charges, such as fuel costs and administration fees, to a bill.

Supervisors voted 4-1 at a December 26 board meeting to cancel commercial trash pick-up. Supervisor Kelly Morris, who had urged his colleagues to seek more customers, accounted for the lone “nay” vote.

At the meeting, supervisors viewed figures that show Panola County Solid Waste is losing $4,660 a month and 200 commercial accounts would be needed for the department to break even.

Supervisors also voted to seek bids on equipment and a truck, and remaining commercial contracts. The bid opening is set for February 2 in Sardis.

Restaurant owner Raymond Belk said Monday he hasn’t renewed his contract with BFI because he wants to sign a contract with Panola County Solid Waste. He was paying BFI $97 a month for a six-yard container, then had that price dropped to $89 a month when he complained.

“I don’t feel the commercial service has been advertised like it should,” Belk said. “I can find them 10 customers right now.”  

“I got a call from Solid Waste asking if I’d agree to $90 a month, and I said I would,” said Ricky Swindle, owner of Batesville Tire and Muffler in Batesville.

Swindle said he currently pays $60 a month for a county-owned container.

After supervisors voted to end the service, Swindle complained to them about losing the county’s  commercial service. He has also used his weekly presence on the “Local Yokel” show, the Saturday morning radio program, to voice his complaints.

Last week at Batesville Tire, Swindle’s well-read sign read, “Why pay 5 supervisors (?) The ol gal runs the show anyway,” referring to County Administrator Kelley Magee.

Swindle said the sign’s message, which has now rotated off and been replaced, was meant to prod supervisors to take a more active role in county decisions.

“What I was saying was you don’t need one person to have the authority to cut out the commercial service,” Swindle said. “(Supervisors) get paid $800 a week. They’re getting paid to have a discussion.”

Thompson, asked about Swindle’s sign, recalled that Magee said when she was hired that her role is presenting information to the board.

“She said it was never her intention to run the board,” Thompson said.

Asked if Magee has stuck to her statement, Thompson said, “Yes, sir, I do.”

Thompson also said that Swindle and others, if they attended board meetings, would see that Magee understands her role.

Magee said last week that she was aware of Swindle’s sign and its swipe at her role.

“There was a time when the county was run by one person, but that’s not the case anymore,” she said, referring to the former administrator.

“My job is to lay all the facts out on the table,” Magee added. “The supervisors are getting more information than they’ve ever gotten before.”

If supervisors discuss a continuance of the commercial service, Magee said her role will be to inform them of the financial situation in Solid Waste. The county department currently needs to purchase a $30,000 Bobcat front-end loader and spend $25,000 for new residential carts.

“Right now we don’t have a back-up truck for either our residential service or commercial service,” Magee said. That purchase would cost about $200,000, she said.