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).
- “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.