Despite the fact Newton County's recycling centers are expected to cost the county $820,912 this year, the Newton County Board of Commissioners renewed its contract for service with Junior Hilliard General Services.
Only part of the deficit is caused by the contract with Hilliard Services, which will be $412,331 per year.
Commissioners Nancy Schulz and Lanier Sims called for the recycling center contract to be bid out, but the board voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve a renewal of the contract with Hilliard Services. The contract has been renewed consistently after being signed in 2001.
Sims said he didn't think it was fair for other contractors to be denied the option to bid for the contract, while Schulz said it seems prudent to bid out a contract that the county annually loses money on. She said in her experience in business, contracts are generally bid out every three to five years.
Commissioner J.C. Henderson said Junior Hilliard, owner of Hilliard Services, had served the county well for more than decade and had taken a 10 percent reduction in his revenues, while also experiencing a 5 percent increase in his gas costs. Hilliard's costs were $457,200 in 2010.
At least one other company was prepared to submit a bid.
The contact will essentially be a one-year contract that can be renewed for an additional four years. The contract can be canceled at the end of any year without penalty. However, if the county wants to end the contract early, the county must give 90-day written notice. If the county breaks the contract without sufficient notice, it must pay a severance package equal to the cost of two months of service.
County attorney Jenny Carter will write up the contract, which is being based on a contract previously signed with Durden's Lawn Care for lawn services, and will present it to the board at its Nov. 15 meeting before the board officially signs the contract.
The cost of the recycling centers has been a topic of discussion for the past couple of years.
While the county-operated landfill itself makes an annual profit, expected to be $607,668 this year, the recycling centers cost more than $1 million to operate, while the sale of recyclables and scrap metal only brings in around $235,000. As a result, the overall solid waste operation is expected to lose $213,244, a deficit that must be covered by the county's general fund, which is supported mainly by property and sales taxes.
Earlier this year, the board of commissioners discussed possibly charging residents a fee to use the recycling centers in order to balance the solid waste budget. However, the board decided to keep the service free during fiscal year 2012.
At the same time, some of the county's 10 recycling centers are being overburdened, causing problems for residents and county workers. The county has only added only one recycling site in the past decade while gaining nearly 40,000 residents. The centers on McGiboney and Oak Hill roads and Ga. Highway 212 are particularly overwhelmed.
The board has looked into adding another recycling center, but that would further increase costs.
The board also looked at the recycling center operation during the 2010 budget cycle. When the county was considering cutting employees, a proposal was made that the county take over operation of the recycling centers and move 20 employees to work at the centers.
At $9 an hour, the county's cost would have $558,048, greater than the Hilliard contract at $457,200, but the county could have come out ahead by saving on unemployment costs.
The county has also considered moving its lawn care contract in house but has not yet taken the step.