County officials discuss garbage situation

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 18, 2001

Staff Writer

Jan. 17, 2001 10 PM

County officials are talking trash.

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Tuesday night, members of the Pike County Commission met with the head of Mark Dunning Industries, Inc. of Dothan to discuss problems with county garbage pickup service.

In the fall, Solid Waste Enforcement Officer Sam Green discussed MDI problems with the commission. Since that time, complaints have continued to be brought to the attention of Green and county commissioners.

And, they finally got their chance to pose some questions to Mark Dunning himself.

"Over the course of the last year, the existing relationship we’ve had with Mark Dunning Industries has gone from a real good relationship to none," Commission Chairman Willie Thomas told Dunning.

"It’s not a very pleasant situation," Thomas said of trying to call the MDI office with questions and not get any answers.

He said the commission "entered into a contract in good faith" and members now want to know why that "rosy relationship" has turned into a "nonexistent relationship" over the past few months.

At the Sept. 26, 2000 meeting of the commission, Green publicly posed some questions to Don Clark of MDI regarding the curbside pick up service. That meeting did not go well and angered commissioners more than helped to answer questions.

Just prior to that meeting, MDI had sent notices to garbage customers about new policies that brought some concern to commissioners and Green, who said trash is being left behind on the routes.

Under the new policies, MDI would not pick up any bags that were not in the 90-gallon container.

"We get paid to dump those containers," Clark said at that September meeting, adding the company would not continue to pick up any bags or boxes left beside the containers.

Clark said changes in the service are because MDI is losing money. He said, in August, the company lost $7,000 in Pike County.

"I can’t pick up extra garbage," Clark said.

Commissioners have been receiving complaints and Charlie Harris more or less gave Clark and ultimatum.

"You either pick it up or I, for one, will vote your contract out of this county," Harris told Clark.

But, that will not happen anytime soon because the commission renewed its three-year contract, beginning April 1, 2000.

Because of the contract, commissioners want to work with MDI to get the problems resolved.

Harris told Dunning he wants MDI to fulfill its commitment outlined by the contract.

"This county, here, pays you up front before you pick up any garbage," Harris said.

"You’ve never had a problem getting paid," Thomas added.

Commissioner Karen Berry said she is concerned that the employees on the trucks are going through the garbage.

"Men have gone through my garbage," Berry told Dunning. "I am extremely upset."

Berry also told Dunning residents are complaining that those on the trucks are taking bags out of the containers when it is closed.

"If the garbage is in the container and it’s shut, there is no reason for them to open it until they get to the truck," Dunning said. "We had no idea they were going through garbage."

Complaints of bags being left behind kept commissioners’ phones ringing during the holidays.

Anticipating that problem, the county hired people to follow the MDI trucks and pick up extra trash during the holidays.

"If we’re going to have to hire someone to do this in addition to you, we don’t need you," Thomas said.

In response to that, Dunning said workers don’t pick up bags left outside the container because of the danger. He said he has had "three or four workman’s comp" claims filed.

Under the existing contract, MDI is supposed to pick up household waste, which does not include things like tires, automobiles, infectious waste and hazardous materials.

Green asked Dunning why bags of Christmas wrapping paper were not picked up and Dunning told him that does not fit into the contract.

"Are you sitting here telling me Christmas paper is not household garbage?" Green asked Dunning.

To that, Dunning said, "Look at the contract."

Dunning said changes in MDI service, such as picking up extra bags, came about because of necessity.

"I’m losing money because of the (costs of) fuel and insurance," Green said.

Commissioner Larry Penn asked Dunning what it will take to get the extra bags onto the trucks.

"What is it going to cost to pick up that extra garbage?" Penn asked Dunning, who said he would figure up the cost.

"We’re doing more than what’s in the contract," Dunning told the commissioners.

Dunning said he will have some answers by the time the commission meets again Monday night.