By Greg Bird
Just over eight months in to his first term of office McCreary County Judge Executive Jimmie Greene II is still figuratively up to his neck in garbage as the County continues to struggle with issues his administration inherited with the garbage collection service.
A few months ago it was announced that Waste Connections, the parent company of Scott Solid Waste acquired Poff Carting, the company which had contracted with the county to provide waste collection services for the county. Poff had the contract for less than two years, and their relationship with the county was not on the best of terms after repeated attempts to enforce the terms of the contract.
The controversial contract included a provision calling for universal collection – meaning every McCreary County resident would be required to sign up for collection service. That language met with strong resistance from the populace, and the County did very little to enforce the local ordinance – causing friction between Poff and County officials. It also led to a loss of revenue for the County as at least 4,200 residents had to be subscribed to the service before the County would see any franchise fees paid back to the County’s Solid Waste Fund.
The County and garbage company offered generous terms and promises of amnesty that failed to encourage new sign ups. Ultimately leaving Poff Carting and now Scott Solid Waste disappointed with participation and scaling back their operations as cost-saving measure.
Now, with Scott Solid Waste’s announcement last month that they would cease operations at the Transfer Station in Stearns, Judge Greene has been trying to figure out a way to find a solution to the problem in a way that satisfies both the citizens of the county and the garbage collection company.
“We’ve put in a lot of effort over the past several months,” Greene said. “We hired a code enforcement officer and worked with Poff Carting and now Scott Solid Waste to encourage new sign ups. We are looking at everything we can to make this better.”
Greene said he has met with the County’s Solid Waste Coordinator to try and find solutions, and will discuss the issue with the Fiscal Court in hopes of coming to a resolution.
One immediate option to ease the garbage situation would be for the County to take over operations at the Transfer Station, but that idea had been tried before and was a drain on the County’s coffers.
When Poff Carting won the new bid and took over garbage service in 2018, they agreed in the contract to operate the Transfer Station one day a week, as SSW did before. But the contract does contain a provision authorizing the move “if the operation is not financially viable.” It appears that SSW exercised that clause in their move to withdraw from the station.
In 2017 the County took over manning of the Transfer Station after the then-expiring contract with Scott Solid Waste was renegotiated for a one-year extension. Part of the new agreement was that Scott Solid Waste would withdraw their one-day a week operation from Stearns and conduct all business at their Winfield office.
At the time it was reportedly costing the County approximately $3,000 per month to operate the station. That cost was offset by franchise fees paid by Scott Solid Waste at the time. But another concession the County granted SSW for the extension was a reduction in franchise fees, leaving the Solid Waste Fund, from which all recycling and waste efforts are funded, severely impacted.
Under the new contract, first signed with Poff Carting in 2017 and now back under Scott Solid Waste, the County is not slated to receive any franchise fees from the company unless at least 4,200 residents are signed up for service. Though close, the County has yet to reach that benchmark, and Judge Greene said he has had difficulty getting an accurate number of subscribers from SSW. The contract does not contain any language allowing for the County to audit Scott Solid Waste’s records to obtain a definitive number of subscribers.
One alternate possibility would be for the County to start its own garbage collection service, but Judge Greene notes it would be an expensive undertaking, with the purchase or leasing of trucks and dumpsters.
Even with its own service the County would still have to negotiate with Scott Solid Waste to take the garbage at their landfill. There is a landfill in Pulaski County as well, but it is owned and operated by Waste Connections, the same parent company of Scott Solid Waste.
Perhaps the only hope for a long-term solution will come in three years, when the current contract expires and a new round of negotiations can begin. But past history has shown that there may be few options when it comes to potential service providers.