Pickens contracts commercial solid waste to Greater Greenville

B y Nicole Daughhetee

Courier Staff

PICKENS — Pickens County recently cancelled more than $500,000 worth of fire contracts with the city of Pickens. As a result, city administrator Katherine Brackett said, the city was forced to make some permanent adjustments in its budget.

“First, we added on the fire fee and, secondly, we contracted our commercial solid waste. Not residential,” she said. “Commercial solid waste was losing close to $60,000 a year, which means of the approximately 130 customers using it; the fees were not high enough to fund the service.”

Brackett said that it is unfair for the rest of the city’s citizens to subsidize this operation.

Fortunately for the city of Pickens, the Greater Greenville Sanitation department is just next door. Serving more than 55,000 customers, the Greater Greenville Sanitation is a Special Purpose Tax District.

What this means, explained Brackett, is that “it is a governmental entity on its own; the only one in the state. It is absolutely inaccurate to say this is city of Greenville or Greenville County.”

Greater Greenville Sanitation has the legal authority to raise millage. It operates under the authority of an elected board and as a separate government; the city of Pickens has been able to sign an intergovernmental agreement with them in exactly the same way that the city has a contract with the city of Liberty for police dispatch and recycling.

“Greater Greenville Sanitation is a special purpose tax district, and they are large enough, with enough staff and trucks, to offer this service at half the cost of what it has cost the city to provide,” said Brackett. “The economies of scale sometimes help governments save money by working together, while remaining in control of the service area and helping ensure citizens, and in this case, businesses, get a great price.”

As has been the case in various other cities, Pickens City Council had the option to simply stop providing commercial solid waste collection. In turn, every local business would have assumed the responsibility of finding its own waste collection services.

Brackett said that members of city council understand that for many local businesses this would have become a financial struggle.

In addition, the cCity would not be able to ensure that the downtown area that so many are working toward improving and beautifying would remain clean and clear of waste and properly disposed of in roll carts or dumpsters where animals can’t get in.

The recent changes in the budget also resulted in the city of Pickens having to let one employee go, but Brackett says that this employee is fully eligible for rehire as soon as a position is available.

“Council made the decision to keep our city fire department and some additional changes had to be made. The decisions were based on what is best for the most citizens, without cutting services,” said Brackett. “The city is very financially stable, but with a $500,000 loss caused by Pickens County canceling our fire contract, a permanent change in operations had to be made.”

The city of Pickens will still operate its streets and sanitation department and will continue to collect residential waste and yard debris.