The City of Covington is planning no longer to pick up furniture and other items that are left out on the side of the road, in an effort to save money.
For years, residents have been able to place nearly anything next to their trash can, except for construction materials, and the solid waste department would pick it up for no additional charge — couches, tables and televisions.
However, on Monday, the Covington City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance change to revise the solid waste procedures. If the second reading of the ordinance is approved, only yard waste, grass trimmings, leaves and tree limbs, will be picked up for free if not in a trash can. Any trash that fits into the city’s trash cans, outside of certain toxic materials, will continue to be picked up normally.
Residents will have to get permits to have furniture and other large items picked up, including construction materials, but the cost will be $50 for any amount of trash up to half of the capacity of a city trash truck and $100 for any amount between half a truck and a full truck. In addition, the city will charge the resident for the tipping fee at the county landfill, which is $35 per ton.
Each additional half or full truck load will be an additional $50 or $100. For example, two and a half city trash truck loads would cost $250, in addition to the tipping fee.
The same principle will apply to yard waste, except the tipping fee will not be included. The first six cubic yards of yard waste per week will be free, roughly half a pickup truck, but additional yard waste will cost $50 per half city trash truck load.
If the second reading of the ordinance is approved by the council on May 17, Public Works Director Billy Bouchillon said the department will not start charging residents until June or July. He said his department will take the next month or two to inform residents of the changes through brochures and other methods.
Bouchillon said he expects the changes to save the city between $75,000 and $100,000 per year. As of now, he said his workers have to make about 12 to 15 trips to the landfill a week, with the city covering the cost of gasoline and the tipping fees.
Another change will be that residents will no longer be allowed to place yard waste either in the street or on the sidewalk, but only on the grass portion of the city’s right-of-way. This to prevent the blocking off of streets and sidewalks and to prevent waste from clogging the city’s stormwater system. Bouchillon said his department would educate the public on this change too and would issue warnings and leave notices for the first six months or so.
• As of Tuesday, all public events that will require either a road closing or any city resources, including police officers, must submit a permit to the city at least 75 days in advance.
The change is being implemented because some events are placing a financial burden on the city, because police officers are putting in overtime to work the events. A resident recently questioned how much the YMCA’s Cheerios Challenge cost the city; the answer was $3,500.
In addition, some events are also placing a strain on the city’s relationship with the Georgia Department of Transportation, because the city has often had to rush to get state approval to close a state route.
City Manager Steve Horton asked the council if they were comfortable continuing to fund events or if they wanted to require event coordinators to cover some of the cost. This may be more of a concern this year, as the number of events seems to be increasing.
Councilman Mike Whatley said he was in favor of the 75-day notice, but he believed that for events with community benefit, the city should continue to cover the costs. The advanced notice will help the police department better manage officers’ time to reduce overtime. Event coordinators can pick up a permit from Main Street Covington of the Covington Police Department.
• The city is hoping to save more than $3 million in personnel costs over the next five years by offering early retirement incentives.
The proposal calls for employees to receive $62.50 in additional retirement money for each month they have been an employee of the city. The incentive would be paid out monthly during the next five years in addition to normal retirement.
Employees have to be older than 55 and qualify and meet the standard early retirement criteria. As an example, an employee who had 35 years and 2 months of service, or 422 months, would receive $26,375 total, payable in 60 monthly installments of $439.58. The employee would also receive normal retirement.
Personnel Director Ronnie Cowan said so far 18 employees have expressed interest in the program though that number could change. Of the 18 employees, four to five positions would have to be replaced, while an additional four full-time positions would likely be replaced with temporary workers.
The plan would cost the city about $71,000 per year, but save approximately $696,000.
Cowan said the city has tried to offer early retirement packages before, including one two years ago, but this year’s plan appears to be among the most effective. He said many employees like the monthly payments, because they could help cover health care costs.
• Speaking of health care, the city approved a proposal from its insurance provider AETNA, which will increase the city’s costs by 9.25 percent, to nearly $2.87 million.
The original proposal was a 16 percent increase, but Cowan said the city managed to negotiate a reduction, by increasing the cost for using out-of-network doctors.
Cowan said all insurance companies want 100 percent of customers to use in-network doctors and hospitals, because the company has negotiated the cheapest rates with these healthcare providers.
Only 2 percent of city employees used out-of-network providers, so Cowan said increasing those costs was a better alternative to increasing deductibles and copays.
• The city needs additional legal counsel, so the council voted 5-1 to put attorney Frank Turner Jr. on retainer, to assist current Attorney Ed Crudup. Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams opposed the decision.
Turner will receive a $1,000 retainer, and City Manager Steve Horton said he had discussed raising Crudup’s monthly retainer from $1,000 to $1,500.