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Council mulls strategy for trash, sewage issues

Because Monday is Veterans Day, the Selma City Council held its work session Thursday night to discuss a proposal from Selma City Councilwoman Miah Jackson to recruit Liberty Disposal to help out with the mounting trash epidemic that has plagues the city since City of Selma Public Works Department employees walked off the job in early October.

Liberty Disposal Owner Matthew Baganc was on hand for the meeting to discuss the options available to the city.

First and foremost, Baganc said, it’s important for citizens to know the difference between trash and garbage – garbage is household refuse disposed of in a garbage can, while trash is generally used to define yard debris and larger refuse.

The rough idea that Baganc and Jackson came up with was that Liberty Disposal would run a second truck behind its garbage truck and pick up trash piling up in yards.

The cost for the service would be $16,500 per month or $198,000 annually, just $30,000 more than the city is currently paying for five Public Works trucks that are currently going unused.

Jackson noted later that the $168,000 payment for the trucks doesnt account for the full cost of the trucks -last year, $142,000 was set aside for fuel costs.

“I’m deeply concerned about the City of Selma right now,” said Selma City Councilwoman Jannie Thomas. “Right now, our city is really in violation. We’ve got tons of garbage…every day, garbage is burning in our community. We’ve got some major areas that [have] too much garbage. I want to do whatever it is that we can do to move forward to get this off the street.”

According to Thomas, some 1,500 people are currently not paying the city ordinance-mandated garbage fee to receive home service.

Despite that, Baganc stated that his company has seen a growth in its customer base, a “big improvement” over the last few years.

The secondary intention of the proposal, discussed later, was to look into whether or not the lease contract for the five Public Works trucks could be exited, but there was confusion as to which department was currently holding the contract – neither  Selma City Treasurer Ronita Wade or Selma City Clerk Ivy Harrison had possession of the document; Selma City Attorney Woodruff Jones likewise had no knowledge of where the contract was located – and, in its absence, what document was being referred to in order to make the monthly lease payment.

The council also went back and forth over whether or not landlords could be held responsible when tenants aren’t receiving garbage service.

Selma City Councilman John Leashore stated that local landlords had roundly rejected the notion at an earlier meeting and the city’s refusal to pursue that avenue further has only “crippled” the city further.

Leashore also noted that he would be more inclined to support the Liberty proposal if the company was willing to pick up both trash and garbage, but Baganc stated that doing so would undermine the lesson to be learned from leaving household garbage behind – in Baganc’s mind, if the company refuses to pick up garbage at those homes not paying for service, leaving it behind after picking up trash, residents will be more likely to sign up for garbage service.

However, Baganc added, his company would possibly be willing to do one sweep of the city, collecting trash and garbage at each address one time, after which a media and public relations campaign would be launched to inform citizens of their responsibilities.

Baganc said that doing so would require him to take the collected refuse to the dump on Highway 41, which would be an additional expense for the company and, as such, the city.

No firm plan was finalized, but the council requested that Baganc draft a contract that could be discussed at an upcoming regular meeting.

“I just presented it as an option,” Jackson said later. “The fact of the matter is, the trash needs to be off the streets and it’s quite cost effective.”

Jackson also discussed sewage, which has been backing up in homes and businesses in the absence of the department meant to address such issues.

Jackson said she had been “bombarded” with calls regarding the issue and had enlisted the help of Selma City Engineer Ray Hogg in addressing the problem.

According to Jackson, Hogg has made the rounds to several impacted areas and determined whether the issue resulted from city lines or fell to the homeowner to address.

Jackson stated that Hogg has been repairing the issue at no cost to the city, but couldn’t continue to do so permanently.

Jackson proposed looking into whether a not a company could be contracted to address such issues when they arise, placing a cap on how much the city would pay in each instance.