By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times
Taking out the trash just got a bit more expensive.
The Itawamba County Board of Supervisors has increased the cost of curbside garbage pickup by 30 percent — from $10 to $13 per month for pickup once each week. The change will be reflected on residents’ next bill.
Residents in the City of Fulton, which contracts out its garbage pickup, will be unaffected by the increase.
The need for the increase was dictated by simple mathematics: Itawamba County’s sanitation department was bleeding money. During a recent meeting of the county board of supervisors, County Administrator Gary Franks told the board if an increase wasn’t enacted, then the sanitation department simply wouldn’t be able to pay its bills.
The department needed to begin bringing in at least $12,000 more each month in revenue just to break even. The increase will generate approximately $13,900 in additional revenue each month.
According to Itawamba County Chancery Clerk Jim Witt, this is the first increase to the garbage rates in more than 12 years. The need for the higher rate is being driven by increases in the cost of personnel services and maintenance to the sanitation department’s fleet of trucks.
In addition to raising garbage rates, supervisors also hired Dan Reese of Three Rivers to oversee the department and recommend ways to save money. The department has been operating without a department head since last year.
Reflecting the rates
Nipping at the heels of the county’s garbage rate increase, the Mantachie Board of Aldermen, which has to approve garbage rate changes within the town’s borders, voted to match the county’s increase. That’s 30 percent, or $3 per customer.
It was a decision reached reluctantly, although in truth, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made at all. It was either match the increase or eat the expense.
“It sounds like we haven’t got a choice,” Alderman Wayne Guin commented.
Although Mantachie’s residents have their trash picked up by the Itawamba County Sanitation Department just like every other resident living outside of Fulton, things work a little bit different within the town’s borders. Rate collections filter through Mantachie Town Hall, which takes a small percentage of the fee — 7 percent — before passing the rest on to the county.
Under the old rates, the town was earning 69¢ per customer; with the new rates, that take increases to 90¢ per customer.
Still, aldermen seemed none-to-happy about raising the rates.
Alderman Tim Jones asked if the county could legally enact such a high increase, expressing concern for senior citizens living on fixed incomes. He said they are being “bombarded” with increased expenses.
Town attorney Gregory Keenum responded that the county officials were well within its rights to increase or decrease garbage rates as they saw fit.
“They can do anything they want,” he said.
Most Mississippi municipalities contract out their garbage pickup. Fulton, for example, uses Walnut-based company, Asco Sanitation, Inc. If the cost of running in-county curbside trash pickup keeps increasing, that may be a viable option for Itawamba County, too. For now, however, county officials will see if the increase helps offset the rising costs.
As Alderman Tim “Red” Spradlin put it, “It still beats carrying garbage to the dump yourself.”