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Covington considers privatizing trash pick-up
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COVINGTON, Ga. - Citing concerns about rising landfill costs and an aging fleet of garbage trucks, the Covington City Council Tuesday afternoon gave City Manager Leigh Anne Knight the go-ahead to pursue bids to privatize the city's trash collection during the council's annual retreat.

Covington city employees currently pick up residential and commercial solid waste in the city.

Knight told members based on anticipated expenses the city has a $421,000 loss looming for solid waste in the coming fiscal year.

In a statement Wednesday, Knight said, "We strive to offer citizens a variety of services and we work hard to provide those services at the highest level possible.

“As city manager, it is my job to look out for the financial welfare of the city and if the sale of sanitation services were to happen, the city would be stronger financially compared to how we are currently operating.”

Officials at all levels expressed concern about the 23 city employees who would be affected by the privatization of the service.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston said taking care of those employees is a top priority.

“If we do reach an agreement with an outside vendor to facilitate the solid waste pickup in the city limits, it will be the mission of the city manager, city council and myself to ensure every employee impacted has opportunities after their tenure at the city,” he said. “We take the prosperity of our employees very seriously.”

Knight echoed Johnston’s sentiments.

“This is a major decision that affects every citizen financially, but we are also looking at the livelihood of 23 employees in the sanitation department,” she said. ”It appears that financially, privatization makes great sense, however just as we care for our neighbors in our community, we also deeply care about our employees. Those employees have my promise they will have a variety of options if needed.”

Knight also said that residents should not expect to see changes any time soon.

“This will be a lengthy process because we want to properly vet those who respond to our RFP (request for proposals),” she said. “We currently have a responsibility to our existing customers and we will ensure that if an RFP is accepted, customers will see no decline in their service.  Respondents will, at a minimum, include all services currently offered by the city and possibly additional amenities like bulk waste pickup.”

Once the RFP is received, the council will ultimately decide what happens with trash pickup within the city.