Automated Garbage Trucks might be Coming to Athens-Clarke County

Athens-Clarke County might be replacing its current fleet of garbage trucks with new fully automatic trucks for $1.9 million.

The Solid Waste Department estimates that the overall savings for purchasing the new trucks, primarily in personnel costs and workers compensation claims, will add up to $500,000 per year. That amount suggests the city could recoup its losses in four years.

One of the key differences between these trucks and the ones currently used by Solid Waste will be that the new vehicles will be identical as opposed to the current ones, which have a range of ages.

The reason that is cost effective is that it is far easier to only need one brand of car to be fixed. Since the parts can be purchased in bulk, which can, but not always, reduce costs, and maintenance is much easier when there is only model that needs to be repaired.

In addition, since these will be new trucks they will not need to be repaired as frequently as the older models.

The primary reason for the savings is that the fully automated trucks will require fewer people to man them. Jim Corley, the director of solid waste for the Athens-Clarke government, said personnel cuts would likely be achieved through attrition.

“We currently have six vacancies and typically have a turnover of 8-12 per year,” Corley said. “We will use temp labor to fill in until the conversion is made. Also I think we can shuffle around the employees to other posts in the government so layoffs will not be needed.”

Although Corley thinks the commission will approve of the new trucks, he acknowledged that one of the biggest obstacles would still be the cost.

“The trucks will cost double that of the standard versions,” Corley said, “and in addition the commission will have to decide if it is worth it to wait for the economic benefits.”

However, there are other benefits to getting the new trucks. Two of the bigger ones are that they will be faster and more efficient so they will save some money that way.

Currently, the garbage trucks patrolling Athens are semi-automatic, which means the collector on the truck has to move the can to the back so the garbage can be dumped in. The newer trucks will use a claw to tip the can directly into the back.

However, in order for the claw apparatus to work, the garbage cans have to be placed at the correct spot in the curb or the claw will not be able to collect the trash, the New Haven (Conn.) Register reported when that city made a similar conversion. The Register also noted that due to the automation, uniform trash bins would have to be provided for the garbage trucks.

Since this is different it will be necessary to educate the people of Athens that the system has changed. If the plan is approved, Corley said, citizens will be informed ahead of time through such means as mailers, water bill inserts, door hanger tags and a notice on the government web site.

Although the policy for garbage pickup would change, residents such as the disabled or the elderly would not need to worry about having to adapt, as the current policy allowing them to place their garbage at a more convenient location, such as their backyard, would remain the same.

Another obstacle that has been in Solid Waste’s way for a long time has been getting funds. Corley has noted that his staff has shrunk over the years and previous proposals, such as around-the-clock garbage pickup and garbage corrals, have been shot down, although part of the later was because they might offend the eyes.

Despite that, Corley said he is optimistic that the cost savings offered by the new plan will make it attractive to commissioners, who he said have offered positive feedback.

The proposal is going to come to a vote in June, said Corley, and will be implemented late this year or early next year.

Video: A New Garden is Going to be Planted at the Ware-Lydon House

A New Garden is Going to be Planted at the Ware-Lydon House

By: Evan Caras

In August, money from a special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) will go to the Ware-Lydon House, located at 293 Hoyt St, to construct a historic garden and to landscape some aspects of the garden.

According to the official proposal, submitted by the Board of Directors of the Ware-Lyndon House, the garden is going to be modeled after the former Stevens Thomas Garden, which is from the same era.

The overall intention for the new addition to the house is to add a garden to show what the house would have looked like originally as well as to enhance the experience of the visitors.

The garden will also be educational since it will have displays up explaining what the garden is and give a brief history lesson to those that visit.

In addition, the garden will also feature a way to showcase water conservation.

A new system will be built that will allow the house to run on its own water the majority of the time and only very rarely will it have to rely on the government to supply the water.

In total, the system is expected to produce a total of 250 to 500 gallons of water per day.

On the other hand, as desirable as a new water system would be, having one installed will not be easy.

“A must have feature of the garden is a working cistern that will be both an educational and interpretive feature, but will also serve as the sole source for garden irrigation once the garden is established. Designing and constructing an affordable cistern that will capture enough water to service the garden during the summer will be a challenge,” Barbara Andrews, the Arts and Nature Division Administrator of the Leisure Services Department stated.

The new garden will have a set of brick steps that will lead from the street, directly to the porch.

The centerpiece of the garden is going to be a cast iron fountain.

The actual shape of the garden will be rectangular, and hedges will shape the outline of the garden.

The garden will also have four apostrophe looking flowerbeds that will be symmetrical to each other.

They bottom of the apostrophes will all face each other and the fountain will be in the very center of the formation.

The intention of the design is that those who have come to relax can enjoy the garden at the front of the house easier than the people who have come on a more serious business.

As of right now the garden is unappealing to look at.

It has a few trees, a few plants, a few flowers, and one abstract sculpture.

The grass is horribly uneven, there is discoloration is some spots of the garden, and some of the plants show clear signs of damage.

This is a stark contrast from the house itself, both inside and outside, since the house is a very fine building and lots of detail clearly went into its construction.

The inside is filled with artwork and is nicely put together.

Everywhere one looks there is something that can draw one’s eye; whether it is the artwork, old books in the library, or even the studios themselves.

It is no wonder why the building’s management wants a new garden.

However, although the garden would look nice, brighten up the area, and serve and educational function; it has stirred up controversy about whether the garden should have been implemented in the first place.

The biggest concern about adding the new garden is that it will be turned into more of a general community center for paid purposes as opposed to how it is now where a person can come in and enjoy the art library or perhaps relax in warm weather.

If the house went too far in the paid direction people would worry whether if all the services the house offers for free, namely the library and the art studios, will remain free or if they will even still be in the house.

Pam Reidy, the Leisure Services director, admitted that she heard a lot of people that worried that the garden could change to a community center, but she also stated that their fears were likely unfounded.

Pam Reidy noted that they were not going to be taking anything away from the house despite the direction it was going in.

Originally, Edward R. Ware built the house in the mid 1800, the government acquired the house in 1939, and the house was later restored in 1960.

The new addition will not be cheap, as it will cost a total of 225,000 dollars to implement and a further 5,000 dollars per year to maintain.

The most expensive change is estimated to be the construction of the cistern, a device used to catch and store rainwater, at 30,000 dollars, while the cheapest is expected to be the seventy shrubs which cost twenty-five dollars each totaling 1,750 dollars.

The garden itself will have a total area of 4675 feet (or eighty-five feet by fifty five feet).

A side benefit of the new garden is that it would make the overall area look much nicer than it currently does.

“The process is currently underway to hire professional services to design the garden.   Once the final design is approved, the construction phase will be bid out to contractors who specialize in this type of project and will build to specifications…and to have the construction completed by November,” according to Barbara Andrews.


Athens-Clarke County is getting a new recycling center

By, Evan Caras

Glass and paper are easily recycled materials.

However, many materials cannot be easily recycled, such as, grease, pesticides, mattresses and batteries.

Athens-Clarke County’s leadership has recently taken steps to ensure that local citizens will be able to recycle new materials-the easy ones as well as well as the hard ones.

In order to recycle those materials, the Athens Commission recently approved a motion to have a recycling center placed at 1005 College Avenue.

However, Jim Corley, the Solid Waste Department Director, said, “there was no money in the budget for such projects since 2008.”

The center itself had been voted for a special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) project.  The center will offer the means to recycle materials that cannot be easily recycled or are potentially hazardous to do so.

To help offset the potential costs of constructing a new building, the center will replace a county-owned building currently used by the police to store evidence.  Their new storage facility will be built at 3035 Lexington Road, Athens, Georgia.

However, the building will be used by the police for evidence storage until their new building will be completed which is expected to be by winter 2015 at the very latest.

The total costs to convert the storage facility into a recycling center are estimated at the Athens-Clarke County website at $193,000.

However, the yearly operating costs ($66,000) will not be included in the SPLOST funds.  The funds themselves can only be used for capital improvements.

The building itself will shift functions in January 2015, according to Corley.

The materials the center will recycle include (but are not limited to) items such as carpet, mattresses, tires, electronics, paints, batteries, and Styrofoam.

 “These materials cannot be picked up at the curb and can often end up in a landfill,” Corley said.

However, on average Solid Waste will also take in roughly 50,000 tons or 100,000,000 pounds of waste annually.  This waste also includes various objects that cannot be recycled without the future center.

The system that the recycling center uses will be different than the one currently used by Solid Waste.

In the current system, the businesses or homes will be given bags for recycling and bags for trash. Solid Waste charges a fee to use the bags for trash, but the bags for recycling are free of charge.

 “Citizens and businesses would have to bring their materials to the facility to be recycled. These are not normal curbside recyclable materials. Some like household chemicals, pesticides, paints, etc. can be considered hazardous. There will be a fee for some of the materials to cover the cost of processing and shipping. Others we get paid for from different vendors so we would not charge a fee.”

The process can be summed up in three steps.

First the consumer will bring their materials that they do not want to throw out, but are not collected under the current system.

After that they might have to pay a fee for certain items (the more hazardous ones).

Finally, once the materials are put in a container, they get sent elsewhere.

However, the biggest issue that faced the recycling center had nothing to do with either funds or the method used!

In reality, the decision of where to place the center was more challenging.

The issue stems from the fact that in order for the recycling center to serve the people it had to be placed somewhere that the average person or small business would be willing to drive to with hard-to-recycle and potentially hazardous materials.

However, to make the problem more difficult, it also should be relatively out of the way so that the traffic would not bother a large number of people.

Eventually the commission picked 1005 College Avenue

The location had two problems; it is very near the University of Georgia and the location functions as a gateway to the city.

In addition, as Kelly Girtz, the District 9 Commissioner, noted in a regular meeting on Feb 4, “more funds would be nice for things such as landscaping.”

The reason why the aesthetics have significance is that the area is on the corner of Cleveland Avenue and it also functions as something a lot of people will see when they come to Athens.

If one of the first things they see is a congested mess then, that will leave a negative impression since the first ones are important.

However, even though the aesthetic issues provided a challenge it might not have been a real choice.

According to Suki Janssen, Waste Reduction Administrator, the commission picked the location since the Clarke County government would not need to transform the existing land and the Clarke County Government owned it.

As a result when the issue came to a vote on February 4, 2014 it was seconded then passed unanimously and quickly.

Nancy Denson, Mayor of Athens, Georgia even noted, “We’re moving fast!”