Report: Parish can save on trash

The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury could save about $4.9 million within the first eight years of implementing a parish-operated residential garbage collection program, according to a report from a private consultant in the solid waste industry.

Parish officials said the report by John Nix, whom the jury paid $5,000 to compile the comprehensive study, may have finally convinced a majority of the Police Jury that handling trash collection is a worthwhile endeavor.

“He really created a business plan of how you might actually make it work,” said Jim Bello, parish administrator. “If you’re going to go into a business this size … you need to know exactly what those costs would be.”

The parish contracts its twice-a-week trash collection with Progressive Waste Solutions.

But the Police Jury has been considering not renewing its contract with Progressive because of annual cost increases that have meant higher fees for the more than 9,800 residential homes serviced by the company.

The jury is set to vote on another 4 percent increase for solid waste at its first meeting in January.

If approved, it would bump monthly residential fees for garbage collection from $18 to $18.72. Two years ago, Pointe Coupee residents paid $13 a month for trash service, according to previous reports.

In September, a Progressive representative dangled potential savings of about $1.1 million over the course of a new five-year contract if the Police Jury renegotiated the new agreement before Jan. 31.

The new contract would reduce residential trash collection to a once-a-week schedule.

“A lot of other communities around us are doing exactly that,” Bello said. “It’s kind of a luxury to have twice-a-week pickup now.”

The parish’s contract with Progressive expires in February 2014.

A majority of the Police Jury opted to hire Nix before making a decision about a new contract with Progressive after Bello presented it with preliminary figures projecting annual savings between $400,000 to $600,000 if the parish handled trash collection itself.

Nix presented his more comprehensive report at the Police Jury’s Dec. 11 meeting.

Nix’s report, which forecast spending over eight years, says the parish will need to spend nearly $800,000 in the first year of an in-house program with once-a-week trash pickup.

The first year cost estimates includes employee salaries, equipment and truck maintenance as well as expenditures for fuel and insurance.

The parish will pay Progressive $1.3 million within the first year of a new contract, according to Nix’s report.

By the fifth year, Nix said, the parish will have to spend about $837,000 for its program. He said he factored in a 3 percent annual increase for projected employees raises and fuel price increases.

Under Progressive’s proposed contract, the jury would spend about $1.7 million by the fifth year, according to Nix’s report.

The parish could see about $2.8 million in savings after five years, according to the report.

“It’s pretty much what I was anticipating,” said Cornell Dukes, who has been the most vocal juror in favor of a parish-run trash system.

“(Nix’s report) goes more to the point of how I want to create revenue for the jury versus imposing fees on citizens who can not afford any additional fees at this time with the economy the way it is,” Dukes said. “A lot of jurors who were opposed to trying this are now in favor of it. I feel like it’s going to happen.”

However, juror Kurt Jarreau is hoping the Police Jury sticks with Progressive, despite the projected savings presented in Nix’s report.

“Our current contractor came back to the table with a better offer to save $1 million in a five year period — that’s guaranteed,” Jarreau said. “Whatever (Nix) is writing down about savings is just something that’s wrote on paper. We have no experience in doing this ourselves. If we fail, we don’t have any margin for error.”

Jury President Melanie Bueche said she also harbors reservations about in-house trash pickup but doesn’t think the jury can ignore the forecasted savings implementing the change could generate.

“We need to look at this right now because we are falling short on revenues to run the parish,” she said. “It would be a big challenge for us but if enough jurors are interested in it, I’m not going to beat my head against the wall and say we can’t do it.”

Bello said a representative from McNeilus, a nationwide trucking company, has been invited to the Police Jury’s Jan. 22 meeting to discuss options and pricing for garbage trucks.

“If the jury really wants, that will be the decision maker because that’s the biggest investment we’d have to make,” he said.