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121 Disposal, the new waste disposal company servicing Coosa County, began residential garbage pickup this week after entering into a new contract with the county. Photo by District 1 County Commissioner John Forbus
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
With ongoing and numerous complaints from citizens regarding the garbage pickup and the county’s waste disposal contract, County Administrator Amy Gilliland took time to speak further on the matter during staff reports at Tuesday morning’s County Commission meeting.
The matter has been covered in the last three weeks’ editions, as well as during prior County Commission meetings when the subject came up over the last two years. Despite that, as well as social media posts on the matter, many are still uninformed and have questions and complaints about the issue.
Gilliland stated that their office, as well as the commissioners individually, have been “flooded with calls” regarding the garbage pickup service.
She stated that last October GFL was sent their notice that their contract would expire on March 31 and asking if they wanted to renew the contract or send it out for bid.
“When GFL acquired the waste disposal that they had almost two years ago – my very first week of work – no one knew anything, so people went four to six weeks with no trash pickup,” Gilliland stated. “There were two commission meetings where we were flooded with citizens demanding that the commission rebid this. We have to send the notice out anyway, so they were sent their notice in October. In December, December 15, GFL sent us a notice that they would not rebid and that they would pick up the cans beginning the week of March 27.”
Also addressing comments and complaints from citizens, Gilliland explained that GFL neglected its responsibility to notify its customers about them no longer providing the service in the county. Further, GFL also did not provide a customer list to the county, so the new company did not have a customer list to work from or to use to contact existing customers, meaning the company had to start from scratch.
“They [GFL] did not state in this letter that they would let everyone know, but I have several emails and phone conversations noted where I spoke to three representatives from GFL, and they were going to start sending out the notices to the citizens that they would not continue to pick up after March 31. They did not,” Gilliland said. “It is not an elected official’s fault. It is not mine, it’s not the commissioners, it’s not the sheriff’s – any elected officials. Complaints need to go to GFL. I understand many citizens paid GFL, and they allowed that to be paid knowing they would not continue these services. They need to call GFL. If you have a personal contract, such as a huge roll-off, then that’s between you and GFL. That’s not the county. The county does have some roll-offs from GFL, and we will continue those while the new waste disposal company works through the residential.”
She added, “GFL not only did not send out notices to anyone, but they were going to share their customer list with us until two weeks prior, and then they would not. So, please be patient. 121 Disposal has worked above and beyond to find out and work these routes. They had two trucks in the county yesterday, so you went one week without service, but they had two trucks in this county yesterday, and they were rolling. Yes, they missed some Monday pickups. We did sign-ups for over a week at the courthouse and Town Hall, and we have signed up more than 1,200 people. So we’ve still got 500 or 600 people in the county that don’t even know what’s going on because they don’t get social media, they don’t get the newspaper, it’s word of mouth. We’ve been called, and they think it’s all on us. It is not on us.”
Gilliland also explained that the new company that has the county contract, 121 Disposal, is working to help GFL’s previous customers as best as it can.
“121 has told me that anyone’s cart that’s out the first few weeks, they’re going to pick them up,” she stated. “They’ve got a really good system so that they can try to get in touch with these people.”
In reviewing recent action covered in previous County Commission meeting coverage, Gilliland stated, “We only had two bids, and we had to beg to get those two bids. No one wants to do residential, and no one wants to come to Coosa County because we are so rural. Being so rural comes at a price. If we weren’t so rural and had a closer landfill, the cost would not be what it is. Of the two bids we received, 121 was the cheapest by far, which is $79.41 per quarter. The other company was going to be $104 per quarter. GFL in the neighboring counties has already gone to over $100 per quarter. They are just not interested in residential at all. Please let people know what’s going on. This is the thing, we’ve gotten beaten for all of this. We’re trying. Even if 121 had not been able to take over on April 10, we already had provisions in place for huge roll-offs within the districts. We knew this was coming, so we had everything covered. We’re going to do whatever we can do to make sure the trash is taken care of. Be patient. The owner is in constant contact with me, and he has been working around the clock to get everything done.”
She added, “I think in a week’s time between us and Town Hall getting over 1,200 enrolled, I think we’ve done really well on that. Pass that information on to call GFL. If you need a refund, call GFL. That’s not our responsibility.”
For new customers or customers who previously had GFL and would like to continue service with 121 Disposal, sign-up sheets are available at the County Courthouse, and Rockford Town Hall will also continue to accept sign-ups as long as it is able. Coosa County residents can also register for service online at www.121disposal.com.
“It will not ask for payment,” Gilliland explained, regarding the online registration. “They’re just needing the contact information. They will call you back; it’s taking them about three days to call people back, but their main thing is they’re wanting the address and the day that you get service because they’re trying to keep it on the same day. They’re going to tweak routes because they have a better system than GFL did as far as tracking and those kinds of things. We’ve given them all the maps that we could. We’re doing all we can to help them. It’s just an unfortunate circumstance, and I think it’s bad business practice that GFL did not let the customers know.”
“So 121 Disposal out of Auburn is the new [company],” she said. “Just be patient and kind, because they have honestly worked around the clock to get this taken care of in a week. You think of how broad this county is, and they’re getting 1,900-plus customers, trying to get them routed, and they’re not from here. We’ll just do what we can to help them.”
District 1 County Commissioner John Forbus posted on social media Wednesday that 121 Disposal was in Hanover picking up residential garbage. Many residents from various areas of the county have also posted or commented on social media that the company was picking up garbage in their areas, as well.
Forbus also stated in social media posts that the owner of the company told him they were working diligently to get the majority Coosa County customers’ trash picked up this week.
Those with questions regarding their registration, garbage pickup with the new company, or who would like to register over the phone can contact 121 Disposal at its Coosa County line, 334-758-8341, for more information.
In reviewing prior County Commission meetings regarding the garbage pickup matter, in addition to coverage of customers’ complaints regarding GFL’s service two years ago, the January 22, 2021, edition of “The Coosa County News” reported that at that time the county’s garbage service would remain the same, “after much discussion over the past few months.”
That decision was made based on legal counsel provided by county attorney John K. Johnson. At that time he stated that, based on the contract’s automatic renewal and 3-year cycles, that the county was already approximately a year into the contract and that it had two years left in the contract before it would come up for renewal again.
However, with the change in ownership of the company, Johnson said at that time that they would have to approve the reassignment of the contract from Advanced Disposal to GFL.
The lengthy discussion during that January 2021 meeting culminated in the commission unanimously approving to reassign the garbage pick-up contract from Advanced Disposal to GFL for trash service in the county.
Following that, during the January 25, 2022, County Commission meeting, commissioners took action to begin the process of potentially getting a different company to provide waste management services in the county, as covered in the January 28, 2022, edition of “The Coosa County News.”
At that time it was stated that the then-current contract term would end March 31, 2023, and that the requirement in the contract was that the county must terminate the contract at the end of the term and notify GFL at least 90 days in advance.
The commission added to its agenda at that time to terminate the solid waste collection and disposal contract with GFL; to be effective March 31, 2023; and to notify the company by certified mail.
During that January 25, 2022, meeting the commission proceeded, after discussion, to unanimously approve having attorney Johnson write a proper letter to notify GFL that the county planned to terminate the contract effective March 31, 2023.
That then opened the contract up to be put out for competitive bid for GFL and other companies to bid on the contract, although ultimately only 121 Disposal and Arrow Disposal bid on the contract this year.
For further coverage of the remainder of Tuesday morning’s County Commission meeting, see next week’s edition.