By Joel Hall
With the City of Forest Park's sanitation contract with Waste Management set to expire in May of this year, city leaders are expected to discuss whether to renew the contract, bid out the service to other companies, or get into the business of garbage collection themselves.
The Forest Park City Council will host a special-called meeting today at 6 p.m., at Forest Park City Hall, at 745 Forest Parkway. In addition to discussing the city's sanitation service, the mayor and council are expected to discuss the possibility of hiring an additional code enforcement officer and adding a full-time information technology (IT) position, according to City Manager John Parker.
"Forest Park was in the garbage business up until five years ago," Parker said. "The first contractor [for the city] was Waste Management. The contract is coming to the end ... I need some guidance from the city as to where to go. They [the members of the council] seem to be relatively happy with Waste Management and I've heard [council members ask] what would it look like if we got into the business ourselves."
Parker said the city pays approximately $1.7 million annually for Waste Management's services, and that the service picks up garbage from about 5,000 homes. The area of town south of the railroad line gets trash picked up on Tuesdays and Fridays, while the north side of town receives pick-up services on Mondays and Thursdays, and limbs, leaves, and yard waste are collected on Wednesdays, he said.
Councilwoman Linda Lord said the garbage service has been of "high interest" to Forest Park residents. She said that this year, the City of Jonesboro took over garbage collection services from its private contractor and that some Forest Park resident have been leaning in the same direction.
"Some citizens, they want it done in-house," Lord said. "Some don't care either way. We're a little different than Jonesboro because we have much more people to serve than Jonesboro. We have to figure out what is best for our citizens. We are going to listen to their suggestions and see what is better, on the whole, for the city."
Councilwoman Maudie McCord said she believes the cost of the service is "too much."
"I would have to listen to all the options and then decide," she said.
"If the city wants to extend the contract, that is fine," Parker said. "They may want to extend bids to other contractors, or they may want to go into the business themselves. A decision probably won't be made until closer to the end of the month."
In addition to considering garbage collection, city leaders will also consider creating positions for an additional code enforcement officer and a full-time IT technician, according to Parker. He said the IT technician would be a new position in the city, and that another code enforcement officer would give the city a total of five code enforcement officers.
"We're trying to get ready for the city to expand and move forward," Parker said. "With Fort Gillem coming on line in a couple of years, we have to be looking at all these things. The salaries have not been set yet. First of all, they [the council] have to tell me if they want to hire them. We will have to look at the market and come back with the dollar figures at a later meeting."
Lord said she supports the idea of a full-time IT technician and an additional code enforcement officer.
"I've worked for companies where you have in-house [IT] support and it is much better," Lord said. "It's a much more direct way of doing something.
"We've discussed it [an additional code enforcement officer] for a while," she continued. "Our population has grown and our citizens would like us to do more with it [code enforcement]. In order to be better in that area, we need to have more personnel. Especially with the coming up of Fort Gillem and the attention there, we want the whole city to look good."
"We want to make sure that we take all [the] steps that are needed to further grow the city," McCord said. "To expand, we would need another code enforcement officer."
For more information about the special-called meeting, call Forest Park City Hall at (404) 366-4720.