DeKalb County officials are considering major changes in how and how often county workers pick up residential garbage.
Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May has proposed the county cut garbage pickups from two days a week to one and that county sanitation workers pick up yard waste and recycling on the same day they collect garbage. The change, intended to save money, will mean garbage trucks will come to residents’ homes once a week instead of four times a week.
The county needs to make the change to cut costs, he said.
“In DeKalb County, we have been delivering a Rolls-Royce level of service, but you all have been paying a Ford Focus rate,” May told about 40 people at Brookhaven City Hall.
Residents now pay about $265 a year for garbage pickup, May said. If the county adopts the new pickup plan, it will not have to raise the fee, he said.
May discussed the garbage collection plan with residents at meetings in Dunwoody Feb. 5 and Brookhaven on Feb. 17. He said he has recommended that the DeKalb County Commission adopt the new garbage pickup schedule.
“This is the most dynamic service delivery change this county has seen in a long time,” May said in Brookhaven.
He said the county had not raised garbage pickup fees in nine years. “We should have looked at this long ago,” he said.
Still, he said he worried about tinkering with a popular county service. “For me, it was a tough decision,” he said. “My staff will tell you, I was beyond nervous. I was scared to recommend this.”
Residents attending the two meetings voiced both approval and opposition to the plan, which was tested through a multi-month pilot program involving 28,000 customers across the county, including some residents in Dunwoody and Brookhaven.
“I was in the pilot program by accident and it was an unmitigated disaster …,” resident Bill Nefsky said in Dunwoody. “We have the Bentley [level of service]. We’d like to know what it would cost to keep our Bentley.”
County commissioners were scheduled to give initial consideration to the plan earlier this month, but deferred it until their meeting on Feb. 24. May said he did not think the delay indicated that commissioners were opposing the plan. “I think they just want to make sure the county has enough time [to get familiar with the proposal],” May said.
Commissioner Nancy Jester of Dunwoody, who represents the northern end of the county, agreed the delay did not signal that commissioners would balk at the proposal. “It’s a big change,” she said. “I do think it’s great to take change slowly. … DeKalb has not raised garbage fees since 2006. We either have to decide to make a change in service or that fund gets raised.”
If the commissioners approve the plan, it will take months to implement it, May told his audience in Brookhaven.
The county plans to distribute new 65-gallon, plastic garbage containers to homes. Equipment installed on garbage trucks will “tip” the new containers, emptying the garbage automatically, county officials say.
The new program reduces the cost of garbage pickup by requiring fewer workers and by making the job less hazardous for sanitation workers, thereby reducing workers’ compensation claims, said Billy Malone, manager of the county sanitation department. May said the job reductions would come through regular turnover, not firings.