Suwannee Democrat

February 7, 2014

Suwannee County: Landfill situation is rubbish

Sends yard trash, construction and demolition debris to Hamilton County.

Bryant Thigpen
Suwannee Democrat

Live Oak —

Ken Mullins, a contractor acting as general manager for Suwannee Landfill LLC, stood before the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday night asking them to reconsider a recent decision to transport Class III waste to a landfill in Hamilton County. 

For at least five years the county has been delivering their Class III waste - construction and demolition debris, processed tires, carpet, among others - to Suwannee Landfill. At a previous meeting, County Administrator Randy Harris informed the board of a rate increase and a change in waste measurement effective January 1, which influenced the board to consider other opportunities. The board agreed to give Harris the option to send the waste to the facility in Hamilton County.

“I want to ask the board to reconsider their recent decision to ship the Class III waste to Hamilton County,” Mullins said. 

Mullins said the facility has not increased their rate in at least five years. He also stated the county and the city of Live Oak are their two largest accounts.

The change in waste measurement from paying per ton to per cubic yard was to align the county with the same pay scale every other entity was paying. Mullins stated two reasons justifying the change. 

“The county was the only customer that is currently paying by the ton,” Mullins said. “For our type of landfill, cubic yard is the best way to measure how much work it takes to handle it.”

“A couch may not weigh that much, but it takes a lot of effort to crush it,” Mullins said. “From a management standpoint, a per yard price is a better indication of how much work is involved.”

Suwannee Landfill is charging the county $4 per cubic yard, and Mullins reported it was the cheapest rate provided to any of its customers. Local residents who take waste to the landfill pay a rate of $8 per cubic yard for disposal. 

Mullins then reminded the board of its desire to support local businesses. 

“At a previous meeting, (Commissioner Ricky Gamble) brought up the fact you want to support and use local vendors if possible. We are a local vendor,” he said. “We employ local people, use local suppliers, pay local taxes and support local businesses.”

Suwannee Landfill’s rate increase was one step the company took to help the company become more profitable. 

“The landfill is struggling and potentially risks closing,” Mullins said.

Commissioner Jason Bashaw expressed to Mullins why the board made the decision.

“I think as a county, when there is such a significant increase, it becomes prudent for us to ask questions as to why (the rate increase), before we accept that price increase,” said Bashaw. “I think what the board wanted to do was say, ‘OK, we need to mitigate the increase for a time until we can take a better look at what’s going on’. I don’t think that you coming and asking us was a bad thing.”

Gamble asked Mullins if the rate per ton could be increased instead of changing the measurement.

“I can deal with that better than I can for a flat rate for the volume because I want to pay for what we’re taking to you,” Gamble said. “I believe with some of our audits, that going by a ton helps us out.” 

He continued, “I’m not against a price increase. I understand the cost of business. I’m just not in favor of the per yard (fee).”

Mullins then said he would sit down with Harris and come to an agreement regarding waste measurement and fee.

“I’ll tell you, we’ve already had this discussion more than once, and you insisted that you weren’t going to charge us by the ton, so why don’t you tell this board what you are going to charge by, whatever unit, and I’ll be glad to do whatever the board wants,” Harris said.

Harris said in previous conversations, Mullins was not willing to negotiate from measuring the trucks by the ton.

“Here’s the problem. When you and I had our last conversation, you made it very clear that your per cubic yard charge was going to be based on the size of the truck, which is 30 yards,” Harris said. “I stated then, that a truck that is only half full isn’t carrying 30 yards. And you insisted, that you would not as I requested, have your man get out and look at the volume in the truck and agree with my employee and write that on the ticket. So there’s no other way to get there from here.”

“You’re either going to charge what you’ve demanded, or you’re going to agree to a compromise. The only compromise that I see that this time, and it hasn’t changed, is what will withstand an audit, and that’s a per ton charge,” Harris stated.

Mullins said based on the conversation during the meeting, he would provide the county with a counter-offer to consider at an upcoming meeting.