Leasing program could save Itawamba County money

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Itawamba County supervisors are considering a rotation program for county garbage trucks they hope will cut down on maintenance bills.

Similar to the program the county sheriff’s department used for years, the rotation program would allow the county to lease tandem-axle garbage trucks for two years, after which the leasing company would purchase the trucks for approximately 75 percent of their initial value.

The idea was brought to the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors by Itawamba County Solid Waste Department Director David Thomas, who said he was looking at different ways to cut his department’s weighty maintenance fees.

“We’ve had some breakdowns recently that were very expensive,” Thomas told the board. “We’ve been trying to do all of our repairs, up to a certain point, but maintenance is definitely a big cost.”

The county’s solid waste department currently operates with seven single-axle trucks. These vehicles, the oldest of which is a 2001-2002 model International, are owned by the county and cost what Thomas said was a small fortune to repair. Last month alone, the county spent more than $30,000 repairing trucks — by far the department’s biggest expense.

Supervisors said maintenance bills are “eating up” the solid waste budget.

According to Thomas, a leasing program may resolve this issue. The particular leasing program at which he’s looking— offered by Memphis-based Tri-State Truck Center— would cover all maintenance within the two-year leasing program, in theory eliminating the largest chunk of the department’s expenses. Each truck would cost the county around $2,500 per month, which is far less than the average amount the department is spending on repairing its own trucks.

Additionally, Thomas said the leased trucks would be larger than those in the current fleet, possibly allowing for fewer trips to the Lee County landfill, where the department deposits its garbage after pickup. Less fuel means less expense, Thomas said.

He told the board that many of Itawamba’s surrounding counties have already joined similar programs.

Although the board wasn’t completely sold on the idea, supervisors certainly seemed interested. In particular, board president Danny Holley said the larger trucks may allow the county to have fewer vehicles on the road.

“If you cut out a truck, you really get to saving money,” Holley said, adding that Thomas should also consider looking at the department’s current routes and seeing how they might be rearranged if larger trucks are employed.

County administrator Gary Franks also suggested Thomas look at how the budget might balance after two years on the leasing program and compare that to the department’s current expenditures.

Supervisors asked Thomas to mull over the figures and return with an elaborated proposal in the near future.

Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing adam.armour@journalinc.com or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.