On Tuesday, November 17, the Macon-Bibb Commission approved privatizing trash pickup along with increasing monthly garbage fees in a 5-3 vote. Despite concerns that public works employees’ jobs will be impacted in the short-term or long-term, the majority conservative Macon-Bibb County Commission pushed forward by entering into a five-year agreement with Advanced Disposal as part of a solid waste master plan designed to improve recycling and garbage services. Beginning in January 2016, the cost of picking up garbage in Macon-Bibb will increase from $15 to $20 per month for residents whose garbage is now collected by Macon-Bibb employees. The increase for those whose trash currently is picked up by Advanced Disposal Services will go from $12.75 to $20 per month.
One of the major concerns of consolidation prior to the 2013 elections was the impact on public employees in which many are African-American. However, tens of thousands of Macon-Bibb residents decided to stay home in 2013 and Robert Reichert was re-elected and his vision of consolidation was allowed to moved forward without much opposition. The reality of public works employees losing their jobs is not a figment of their imagination, but could happen in the very near future. The loss of jobs in city government will not happen tomorrow or next week or even six months from now. However, sudden changes could happen in a year or eighteen months from now when Advanced Disposal gets settled in as the private contractor.
Reichert ,who is running for re-election in Macon-Bibb in March 2016, has pushed forward on plans which are designed to further reconstruct government in a way that will impact the lives of African-Americans specifically. However, will Reichert go unopposed and unchallenged?
Commissioners Larry Schlesinger from the majority-black District 2, Gary Bechtel, Al Tillman from the majority-black District 9, Ed DeFore and Mallory Jones supported the increase along with privatizing garbage college, and Commissioner Scotty Shepherd was absent.
There was some opposition from the Macon-Bibb Commission and expressed concern about the 5-3 vote.
“That increase is a burden for some people,” said Commissioner Elaine Lucas, who joined Commissioners Bert Bivins and Virgil Watkins in opposing the new countywide contract with Advanced Disposal.
District 5 Commissioner Bert Bivins spoke to Central Georgia’s largest television station, WMAZ-TV about the contested vote to privatize. Even though both Solid Waste Department Director Kevin Barkley and Mayor Robert Reichert promise that current solid waste employees will not lose their jobs, Commissioner Bert Bivins says a promise isn’t enough.
Commissioner Bivins says, “Why is it that we can’t just reverse the roles and let our people pick up the garbage and let the other people do all the other stuff? I think that there’s been a decision made by somebody in the past that we’re going to give all of this work to the contractors, and I think that’s what we’re upholding.”
With Advance Disposal taking over the pick-up of garbage, this leaves recycling for public works employees.employees. Bivins was quoted in The Macon Telegraph that the recycling program might not work and this would put public works employees in a tough situation.
Bivins said he supports recycling, but he questioned what will happen if it fails.
“If it doesn’t work, we’re putting (Macon-Bibb employees) in a position without a job,” he said.