In early March residents of Villanow received a letter from the office of Walker commissioner Bebe Heiskell. In the letter, Heiskell details how Villanow will no longer have it’s already minimal trash service due to (she claims) low usage and high costs. We’re going to discuss the letter in detail below, but hope you’ll read the whole thing first in context here (2.2MB PDF file).

From the letter:

    To those of you using the county’s dumpster truck services at the Villanow Fire Station, this is your notification that Walker County can no longer provide this service to your community due to several issues, the main one being the cost of placing a county employee at this location most of the day while charging less than the public pays at the landfill for the same service.

Faced with paying out the nose for private garbage service or driving to the county dump in Chickamauga, Villanow residents begged for years to have a public dumpster set up at the fire station or another convenient location in the area. The county finally placated Villanow voters in 2001 by agreeing to have a county garbage truck sit at the station for several hours on Thursday mornings. That arrangement was inconvenient for many working people who would have to change their schedule to meet the truck, but the commissioner insisted a public dumpster would have cost the county too much and pushed private garbage haulers out of the area. That proposal may have cost too much, but probably no less than the system now being abandoned.

    For no more garbage than is generated from your community, we couldn’t break even at $8 per 6 bags considering gas and mileage, cost to haul and dispose from the transfer station to Athens, TN and 8 hours of regular wages for a road department employee.

The county operates a dump in Chickamauga off Marble Top Rd. but apparently sends all of its own garbage to a transfer station that hauls it several hours away to Athens. This doesn’t make any sense and raises questions about why the county even has a dump in the first place if it’s not economically viable for anyone to use it. (The City of LaFayette doesn’t use the Walker dump either, electing to use a transfer station in Trion due to the county’s high dumping fees.)

    We have tried very hard for several years to make this service work for your community, but the road department’s budget is already stretched to the limit providing road services.

It’s also not clear why a road department employee has to be the one supervising garbage collection. It’s obvious the county’s road department doesn’t do anything, but why does this chore automatically fall into that agency’s area of responsibility?

The letter goes on to list several Chattooga-county based garbage services that Villanow residents can pay to pick up their garbage. It also suggests for “several households to go together and rent a dumpster.

It’s curious how all the locally-owned garbage haulers are based in Chattooga county, because by the commissioner’s own logic there should be no private trash service there as Chattooga residents have access to free public dumpsters. Chattooga’s government is relatively old-fashioned (they don’t even have an official Web site), but does provide residents with a scattered network of public garbage collection sites that feature dumpsters and recycling bins. Despite that, private garbage collection businesses still exist within Chattooga county and do well serving those who prefer curbside trash pickup.

Setting up a similar system in Walker County under the authority of the garbage dump or road department wouldn’t be that difficult, especially if garbage collection sites were put next to fire stations on property the county already owns. (They could even contract to have dumpsters emptied by one of the private haulers Heiskell recommends.) It would benefit all areas of Walker to have convenient garbage drop-off sites nearby and might go a long way to reduce illegal dumping and smog-producing garbage fires. But doing that would cost the county money it prefers to spend on pet projects in Chickamauga, compete with municipal sanitation agencies, and provide services to areas where residents vote incorrectly.

Even as the county cuts back on services to residents because of budget difficulties, they’ve set up more perks for county employees at taxpayer expense. In addition to the well-discussed gym memberships introduced several years ago, Walker County last week set up a medical clinic for county employees in the commissioner’s office. The county claims this will save money in the long run vs. providing health benefits to employees through private companies, but as one Undergrounding said “they are adults, they can pay for medical care the way the rest of us do.” If times are so tight the county should cut back benefits for its employees at the same rate it kills services for the residents who pay those employees instead of trading one for the other.

In 2008 we discussed the proposed Villanow Community Center and predicted it would never provide all the services its backers promised. Nearly two years later that center is being built but nowhere near complete, and even when it’s done the residents of Armuchee Valley won’t benefit from it because there will be no staff or services there beyond what’s already available at the existing fire station. Villanow voters bought Bebe’s promises and backed her reelection in 2008, only to pay the price two years later as the few services she was giving them are taken away.

    The last day the county’s truck will be at the Villanow Fire Station is Thursday, April 1, 2010. I hope this gives you adequate time to make other arrangements. We are very sorry for any inconvenience this causes.

Commissioner Heiskell is playing a giant April Fool’s Day trick on the residents of Villanow, but this is one that won’t end at midnight on April 1st. Hopefully the fools of Villanow who bought Bebe’s pie-in-the-sky promises will join residents of Noble and other parts of the county in understanding what her priorities truly are, and make replacing her their priority in the 2012 county election.

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  1. How disgusting. I grew up in Rock Spring (where there is no trash service) and even WE hated driving to chickamauga to take the garbage off. I can’t imagine living in Villanow and dealing with that. It’s a million miles from anything. But Bebe doesn’t care about that. As long as she still has her gym membership.

  2. What’s he big deal? It’s only 50-60 miles round trip…

  3. Okay, let’s straighten out some facts in this article. The Landfill that Walker County is permitted to operate is for construction and demolition material only. They can only accept household garbage at their transfer station. So when you say…

    “The county operates a dump in Chickamauga off Marble Top Rd. but apparently sends all of its own garbage to a transfer station that hauls it several hours away to Athens. This doesn’t make any sense and raises questions about why the county even has a dump in the first place if it’s not economically viable for anyone to use it.”

    Understand that they can not, by law, dispose of any household garbage at the facility on Marble Top Road. They, by law, have to transfer all household garbage to a permitted municipal solid waste landfill, which WALKER COUNTY DOES NOT HAVE.

    The other thing that needs clarifying is the Villanow garbage service. I didn’t see anyone complaining when the man that brings the truck over the mountain didn’t charge them full price for dumping their garbage on the days that they brought him fresh produce from their garden. How can you expect the County to foot the bill, when people are not even willing to pay the minimal fees that were being charged in the first place. Some neighbor of mine and I have rented a dumpster from Whites for years and we each pay $30 a quarter. Why is this too much? I would have paide $8 a week if I had taken my garbage to the fire hall. Come on guys, find something else to complain about.

    Remember, there are two sides to every story and please get the facts straight before posting things that are just not true.

  4. Is it illegal for the county to dump household waste, but not individuals? Anyboday can dump household garbage. They even list types and prices: http://www.walkerga.us/Services/Landfill.aspx

    Not everybody is fortunate enough to live near several neighbors willing to chip in on a dumpster. Your price of $30 a quarter is not typical (according to White’s estimate), nor feasible for some poorer families.

    You ask “How can you expect the County to foot the bill, when people are not even willing to pay the minimal fees that were being charged in the first place.” Taxes. Fiscal accountability.

  5. Resident:
    As Lucas said, why can residents put household garbage in the county dump if the county cannot? And even if the county can’t use its own dump, why do they need to transfer the trash all the way to Athens? (Notice that Chickamauga residents get special lower rates for their “inert material” – they might as well give out special discount cards to everyone who votes for Bebe Heiskell or Jeff Mullis.)

    Was the guy supervising trash at the fire station being nice or just taking something for himself? If he didn’t turn in the produce for county use then he should be investigated for theft. The whole weekly garbage truck system was destined for failure from the beginning; Bebe never wanted to provide any services to Villanow and structured it to be economically non-viable so she’d have an excuse to cancel it down the road.

    What are you Villanow folks getting for your tax dollars these days? They closed your school, Thursday is the last day for garbage service, the sheriff’s department never patrols there, the fire department hasn’t had new equipment since the Regan administration and none of the roads have been paved since Buddy Chapman was commissioner – outside of the SPLOST-funded “community center” that won’t be finished until the 2012 election, what exactly is Bebe accomplishing on that end of the county? Last I saw they don’t even mow the right-of-way anymore out there.

    And consider how Chattooga County manages to do a lot of stuff Walker doesn’t even with a smaller population. Is it really an issue of economics or of priorities? This is something you might want to think about before you vote again.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  6. Walker County accepts household garbage at their transfer station, NOT the “dump”. The “dump” can only accept construction and demolition waste. Walker County does not provide garbage service to ANY in Walker County. ALL “household” garbage, County garbage, etc. goes to the TRANSFER STATION. They only have the C&D landfill and TRANSFER Station. The $30 that I referred to is so low because there are several families that use our dumpster and we divide it by all of the families that use it. INERT material goes into the inert waste landfill or is chopped up, all at a reduced rate for everyone. As for sending the garbage to Athens, TN, would you rather them have a dump in our County? They accepted bids for the service that the Athens Landfill has and they were awarded the bid many years ago.

    Trust me, if Commissioner Heiskell didn’t feel that the garbage service at the fire hall was something that the County needed to do, she would not have even tried it. The Sheriff’s department will have a satelite office at the new community center. Shahan Lane was paved during Bebe’s administration as I am sure others have. As a Villanow resident, I don’t just drive on my road, I use a lot of County roads that are not in Villanow that the County has paved. The road department mowed my road at least 3 times this past season.

    I am not saying that I agree with every decision that is made, but I don’t agree with what is being said here because there is so much being misunderstood or false.


  7. Yes, the commissioner would never do anything that would not benefit her in any way if it meant causing hardship to local residents because we know that all local politicians are pure in motive and intent. Or perhaps you are someone that knows and perhaps love the Commissioner, perhaps in her family or as a close friend, and will defend her, not because she is good at what she does, but because she is in your close circle. It is one thing taking away the garbage dumping location for Villanow, but not providing a better option is another. Paved one road during her term? That’s a plus? A satellite sheriff’s office? You expect it to really be used? You expect the community center to really be anything useful? The mowed your street? By golly, its like they really do care!

  8. So the facility on Marble Top is the TRANSFER STATION?

  9. Nobody wants to live near a landfill, but having no affordable garbage service means the entire county is going to become little more than a garbage dump. I’d rather the county turn a few acres into a landfill than continually see uncollected garbage pile up in cemeteries, vacant lots, ditches, and waterways. They could reopen the “illegal” dump out in Kensington near Reichold and put the train tracks back in to service it – at least then there would be some kind of economic activity going on out in the cove.

    Setting up a satellite office in Villanow doesn’t provide extra officers to man it, no more than building a history museum in Chickamauga or buying and restoring the Marsh House in LaFayette put staff in those locations. SPLOST doesn’t pay salaries, so even if they duplicated every county office in Villanow there wouldn’t be any more county employees providing services to the people who live there. Most of the things promised along with the community center are things that could be done now but aren’t. Paving Shahan Ln. is great, but it’s only two miles long – two miles of asphalt laid in nine years isn’t a lot to brag about.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  10. I was trying to provide you with information that was true and accurate. Several things stated in this article were just not true, but apparently accurate information is not what you are after in this particular article. Form your own opinion. I have stated the true and accurate facts and have said enough.

  11. VR, you need to clarify: Is the facility on Marble Top the transfer station?

  12. The Marble Top Road facility has a construction and demolition landfill, a transfer station, and an inert landfill all on the same property.

  13. Thank you, VR.

  14. You want to cry and complain about TRASH. You make it, you should dispose of it! Welcome to the, Oh the goverment should do everything for me, then you would complain if the taxes went up for services. Grow up and take responibility for YOUR TRASH!
    Oh lets not forget about the COMMUNITY BUILDING for the COMMUNITY the Commissioner is doing for the VILLANOW COMMUNITY! You people make me sick!

  15. Actually, we don’t make it. It comes with everything we purchase.

  16. It comes with everything WE purchase. Oh excuse me. You are sooooo smart!
    YOU still cause it.

  17. Actually, it was caused before we came into contact with it. If anything, the product manufacturers cause it.

  18. Sounds like we’ve got another rocket surgeon that’s going to have to be sent to school……….

  19. I guess I just really don’t understand this. You can choose where you live so just because you choose to live in a sparsely populated area, you should therefore be able to demand more govenment services (like trash removal) than someone who lives in a more populated area? I live in a subdivison that does not have government sponsored trash removal and therefore I pay for the service. Why is this so unheard of in Villanow? I guess I just don’t get what all the fuss is about.

  20. The issue isn’t with garbage itself… First off we have this Taj-Mahal community center being built out there, hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on that, with promises of many services that will be provided once it’s completed. But most of those services could be provided now and aren’t. Read back to this post: http://www.cityoflafayettega.com/2008/07/splosting-around/#10 . They’re promising the moon to residents in Villanow but can’t even pick up their trash, so why would anyone believe the other promises will ever be fulfilled?

    The second thing is about priorities. Villanow residents pay property tax at the same rate everyone else in the county does, but receive nothing back for it. Essentially no law enforcement, no road maintenance, schools located 30 minutes away and a garbage dump on the other side of the county. Other parts of Walker are in the same situation. Chattooga County has a LOT smaller population and a worse economic slump than Walker but still manages to provide a place where people can legally dump their trash. I’m not expecting curb service but it’s not going to kill the county to set out a dumpster at all 18 fire stations, or at least at the ones outside a municipality and more than 15 minutes away from the dump. If the county won’t provide a way for people to dispose of their garbage then nobody should be surprised when the ditches, waterways, and wooded areas continue to be buried by illegal dumping.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  21. I live in the city of lafayette (LOL) and have to pay almost 14 a month for trash services that is suppose to be picked up twice a week usually only happens once and when it does run they dont empty the can they only pull out the couple of bags that are in there. there for the can remains a 1/4 of the way full and really stinks like the dump. They do not give us the option of taking care of our trash on our own we must pay for the service it come on the utilities bill. thats same great service should be throughout walker county.

    I really dont understand how walker county can start a clinic for their employees when state workers are having Furlough days and getting pay cuts

  22. the thing is, we would not have this problem if the county had fulfilled there obligation to get class ”msw” permits at the beginning of the buddy chapman term, several test wells were drilled to check for contamination of ground water, and a liner was supposed to be installed, but the heel dragging by the powers that be did not make the deadline set by the ”dnr” for renewing the license for the class ”msw” landfill, so in a rush a meeting was held at the civic center at rock spring to take a vote on what to do with the garbage, i know this for a fact, i was there, the transfer station was pretty much pushed through, the citizens of walker co had little knowledge of this meeting, less than 30 people attended,when the transfer station opened in july 1998 the cost was $20 per ton, a $6 increase overnight per ton,over the old landfill @ $14 per ton if i remember correctly, now $35.50 per ton, thats a $21.50 increase in 13 yrs, a real waste,not to mention the increase in employs, the old system had about 4 or 5 people to run the operation, and the upkeep equipment was done by a company called ”talley” then walker county took over and up it went, now about 9 or more people are needed to run it, i dont understand how household waste cant be buried in red chert which is like a container itself cant be used for dumping, its all a racket to make more money for the state, like the new truck tag thing that was just dreamed up for those that use pickup trucks for small business, and the huge increase in antique tags for cars and trucks,and what do we get for it? nothing, law enforcement,thats about it, want to see a movie or do any thing entertaining , ya got to leave walker co, any way here is a link about the transfer station http://www.dca.state.ga.us/development/EnvironmentalManagement/programs/downloads/Adopted%20Solid%20Waste%20Management%20Plans/Walker%20County%20SWMP%202007.pdf