The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday evening to discuss a growing problem: trash disposal.
With 18 manned recycling centers and one under construction, as well as seven unstaffed dumpster sites, Bulloch County Solid Waste Director Fred White told the commissioners that he has his hands full. With limited equipment and staff, maintaining and emptying more than 800 receptacles across the county is a challenge, he said. Every site stays busy, and receptacles are often filled to overflowing - sometimes with illegally dumped items.
Many problems arise when people don't follow the rules while discarding refuse, he said. Dumpsters at unmanned centers are for household garbage only, yet people dump mattresses, yard debris, appliances, old tires and other restricted items. Sometimes commercial businesses also dump large amounts of construction and demolition debris instead of taking it to the landfill, he said.
Manned recycling centers have different receptacles for various types of trash, but residents are often confrontational with center attendants, arguing about the rules for trash disposal, White said. Some have even threatened the attendants, he said.
Commissioners discussed legal ways to handle such abusive behavior, including securing possible warrants for repeat offenders who regularly give attendants a hard time.
Another issue, especially at unmanned centers close to county lines, is illegal dumping by out-of-county residents, he said. Bulloch County Environmental Code Enforcement Officer Bobby Ivey has written numerous citations, but the problem persists, White said.
Both White and Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch addressed the commissioners Tuesday during a 5 p.m. workshop, pointing out problems and discussing possible solutions.
One suggestion White made was to close all recycling centers on Tuesdays and Thursdays in order to perform maintenance on trucks and facilities.
Also, limited staff and equipment, paired with a growing demand for solid waste disposal, presents challenges, he said.
"We need more centers, and we need more drivers," he said.
The county currently has six full-time and two part-time drivers for trash trucks.
Couch also offered suggestions, discussing a disposal system called Bagster in which people with large amounts of non-household waste can buy a large baglike container, fill it and then pay to have it hauled off.
He also talked about prohibiting any type of tire disposal at the centers, and White agreed.
"We have a lot of tires (that get dumped), and it costs us a lot of money," White said.
Another suggestion was to have county residents use a decal on their vehicles to show they live in Bulloch and may dump legally.
Bulloch County must pay fees to send garbage to the landfill. When recyclable trash is placed in the proper recycling bins, it eases that cost, he said. While recycling doesn't make much profit, it offsets the cost of taking trash to the landfill.
"We don't need to give up recycling," he said. "We would be cutting our throats to give up recycling."
But solutions to the problems must be put in place, he said.
"I want to make sure we give the best service to every citizen of Bulloch County, but in order to do that, we're going to have to make some changes," he said.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson, who has taken a personal interest in trying to keep the unmanned center on Rocky Ford Road near Old River Road North clean and safe, said a great deal of responsibility lies in the hands of area residents. He and his wife live close by, and they have volunteered on several occasions to clean up the site where people have dumped trash outside the receptacles, including prohibited items.
Signs at the dumpsters outline the rules, but people ignore them, he said.
Commissioners listened to Couch and White but, at Couch's suggestion, tabled the issue without action until further discussion and planning regarding any possible changes to the solid waste system.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.