Citizens Voice Frustrations Over County Garbage Collection Plan

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BY HANNAH LESTER
HLESTER@OPELIKAOBSERVER.COM

The Lee County Commission met for a host of issues Monday night, including a discussion on frustrations over the county’s new garbage service collection system and on the American Rescue Plan money funding requests.

TRASH COLLECTION:

Two weeks ago the Lee County Commission voted to enter into an exclusive contract with Arrow Disposal now that the county has transitioned to curbside pickup.

Originally, the county expressed that curbside collection would not change private companies’ ability to continue collecting trash. However, the commission voted to enter into an exclusive contract with Arrow, meaning local vendors can no longer provide curbside services, despite having already obtained clients.

“After some discussion, an addendum was sent out referencing the local act that allowed for citizens under our current system to contract with a private disposal service to then be exempt from the county system,” said County Engineer Justin Hardee two weeks ago.

He then said the county was unaware at the time of any services offering disposal in addition to transport.

However, vendors began advertising and contacting the county about providing disposal services, Hardee said.

Additionally, some of the services began advertising falsehoods, Hardee said, which led to a discussion of pursuing an exclusive contract.

Commissioners expressed that they believe this was the decision best made for citizens.

“I can see how we’re going to make a mess out of this thing by doing that and thank you for coming up with a good solution,” said District 4 Commissioner Robert Ham to Justin Hardee.

Ham said the situation had gotten out of control. District 3 Commissioner Gary Long said that individual contractors would cherry-pick areas that would not be fair to the contracted company the county uses.

“We have to do what’s best for the group,” Ham said. “… sometimes we just have to make hard decisions and this is one of them.”

Hardee said that all vendors had the opportunity to bid for the exclusive contract but some chose not to do so. Local vendors, however, attended Monday night’s meeting and contested that point.

Willie Philpot, owner of Virotech Services said that the requirements the county laid out automatically excluded smaller companies, like his own.

“It seems to me and a number of others that the decision made during the Sept. 13 meeting [was] solely based on politics and economical standpoints and not actually what’s best for the citizens of Lee County,” Philpot said.

District 5 Commissioner Richard LaGrand, despite voting for the exclusive contract on Sept. 13, asked the commission if they would revisit the discussion and vote following citizen comment.

“I think we need to be in consideration about this after listening to the people,” he said.

He made a motion but did not receive a second and the discussion was dropped.

AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN:

Two weeks ago, District 2 Commissioner Sarah Brown outlined questions and guidelines different groups would need to answer in order to receive American Rescue Plan money.

Lee County was allocated $32 million as part of the American Rescue Plan, but the money must be spent in very specific ways — COVID-19 related.

Brown provided a form Monday night that local organizations will need to fill out and return to the commission.

Questions and required information includes: the organization address, phone, email, director or CEO, website, mission and funding questions.

Funding requisitions include what the ‘requested funds will be used for …’ and ‘greatest need related to COVID-19’. Additionally, the form has a space for how much is being requested and which Lee County citizens will be benefitted from the money.

Additionally, organizations are asked to include a financial report for the last two years, audit, complete breakdown of funding sources and board of directors list.

The form will go live on the county website on Oct. 1 and will be due on Nov. 15.

Organizations should send documents and the form to Wendy Swann (wswann@leeco.us).

OTHER BUSINESS:

– The commission approved an agreement with the town of Loachapoka.

– The commission approved a special events retail license application for Greenawalt Hospitality.

– The commission approved an education reimbursement request for Oline Price.

– The commission approved a HRRR funding agreement.

– The commission approved Phase 2 of the Hornet Flats Subdivision.

– The commission approved the highway department’s annual maintenance bid results.

– The commission approved the Alabama Scrap Tire Fund Contract

– The commission approved the cable franchise agreement renewal

– The commission approved the 2022 Fiscal Year Budget.

– The commission approved changes to the classified position of the chief administrative officer.

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