Targeting an estimated annual cost savings of just more than $132,000, Amherst County is moving away from contracting with a private company for waste hauling and is assigning that role to the county’s public works department.
The Amherst County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to make public works the county’s exclusive waste hauler, which replaces an agreement with County Waste, a New York-based firm, as of July 1. Brian Thacker, director of public works, said the county recently solicited from six prospective bidders to haul containers at the county’s solid waste convenience centers and a comprehensive price comparison found the county can save money by doing it internally.
The analysis shows the total cost per month for public works to haul waste from convenience centers is $14,690, which is a monthly savings of $11,000 from the current arrangement, Thacker said. The overall cost savings expected per year is $132,332.
Factors in the cost savings include tax-free diesel fuel and lower wages, according to Thacker. He noted while County Waste has done a good job servicing Amherst County it has thousands of other customers in the Lynchburg region, while public works is only focused on Amherst waste collection.
“We don’t have a profit motive, which is huge,” Thacker said. “And we’re our only customer. We’re here to service Amherst County.”
Supervisor David Pugh said he is a bit skeptical of the county’s savings projection and worries it may not pan out while noting he likes the idea of the private sector filling the role. “I, for one, never necessarily like to grow government,” Pugh said. “But that’s my stickup on this. I don’t know if the $132,000 is attainable or not.”
Thacker said the county would not be growing government as no new hires are necessary to carry out the work and the lone major expense is purchase of a truck, which according to figures presented to supervisors is about $175,000.
He said he’s analyzed the cost-saving projections for a month and if the move is a failure the county could opt to once again contract out the service.
Thacker said public works taking over the hauling ensures flexibility in emptying cans and answering calls on the weekend if necessary without waiting for a contractor to provide the service on its timetable.
“We’re using the assets we already have to its maximum,” Thacker said of public works ensuring containers get emptied more quickly and efficiently.
County Administrator Dean Rodgers said supervisors have fielded complaints from residents about issues they’ve experienced accessing the convenience centers. The county hauling the waste itself will prevent that, he added.
“We don’t have to sustain those kinds of complaints because we’re in control, we’re not waiting for someone else to come service us,” Rodgers said.
The board’s approval calls for Thacker to report back in six months on how the measure is progressing and outlines for the cost savings to get tracked and placed into a reserve fund for public works, including helping cover costs associated with closing the county’s landfill within the next few years.
Supervisor Jimmy Ayers said achieving $132,000 in cost savings, especially in dire financial times in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, is beneficial to the county. He also echoed Rodgers’ point in the county having more leverage to make the solid waste disposal process smoother for the public.
“The element of control for our people, for our community, means a lot,” Ayers said.
Reach Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.