April 16, 2014 9:27:04 AM
Starkville aldermen on Tuesday unanimously approved four separate sanitation studies -- including one that would outsource service -- in an effort to find future savings to help balance the department's budget.
The board asked city staff to prepare requests for proposals to outsource landscaping and litter control duties, and all sanitation functions with two separate consent agenda items. Aldermen also ordered Sanitation and Environmental Services Director Emma Gandy and Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams to study a switch from garbage bag distributions to tipper bins to see if the move would be financially feasible. Another motion authorized Gandy and Adams to determine if the city can negotiate either better terms with Waste Management or a second contract for recycling processing.
All four reports are due before the board on May 20.
The four motions came after a pointed discussion between Gandy and the three-person Starkville Audit and Budget Committee Thursday. Gandy asked the committee for an additional $233,000 in revenues, but the committee told her to tighten the department's financial belt, balance its budget and do its job based upon Fiscal Year 2013-2014 funding levels.
Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard, who chairs the budget committee, echoed Thursday's sentiments in Tuesday's board meeting: All options are on the table, and aldermen have no appetite to increase taxes or sanitation rates to subsidize the department's new requests.
Aldermen approved a $1.50 rate increase last year after Gandy requested a $3 hike. Even with the additional $180,000, the department needs extra funding to cover garbage bag distribution, equipment and consultation costs, she told the budget committee last week.
"When you look at something like (outsourcing garbage collection), you have to realize it's not all about the money. If you hire an outside firm, you lose day-to-day control of that department," Maynard said. "It's not going to be a dollars-and-cents decision. We're a board of seven. We understand that every employee within the department has families they're supporting. None of this will be taken lightly.
"We're also elected officials, and we were elected to maintain the budget of the city. We would not be doing our due diligence if we didn't at least gather the information," he added.
Aldermen will hold the city's next budget meeting 4 p.m. Thursday in City Hall's first-floor conference room.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
1. West Lowndes principal resigns COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Columbus cheer squads competing in national event COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Two arrested for Walgreens burglary COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY