Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May
Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May

DeKalb County officials are considering major changes in how and how often county workers pick up residential garbage.

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May has proposed the county cut garbage pickups from two days a week to one and that county sanitation workers pick up yard waste and recycling on the same day they collect garbage. The change, intended to save money, will mean garbage trucks will come to residents’ homes once a week instead of four times a week.

The county needs to make the change to cut costs, he said.

“In DeKalb County, we have been delivering a Rolls-Royce level of service, but you all have been paying a Ford Focus rate,” May told about 40 people at Brookhaven City Hall.

Residents now pay about $265 a year for garbage pickup, May said. If the county adopts the new pickup plan, it will not have to raise the fee, he said.

May discussed the garbage collection plan with residents at meetings in Dunwoody Feb. 5 and Brookhaven on Feb. 17. He said he has recommended that the DeKalb County Commission adopt the new garbage pickup schedule.

“This is the most dynamic service delivery change this county has seen in a long time,” May said in Brookhaven.

He said the county had not raised garbage pickup fees in nine years. “We should have looked at this long ago,” he said.

Still, he said he worried about tinkering with a popular county service. “For me, it was a tough decision,” he said. “My staff will tell you, I was beyond nervous. I was scared to recommend this.”

Residents attending the two meetings voiced both approval and opposition to the plan, which was tested through a multi-month pilot program involving 28,000 customers across the county, including some residents in Dunwoody and Brookhaven.

“I was in the pilot program by accident and it was an unmitigated disaster …,” resident Bill Nefsky said in Dunwoody. “We have the Bentley [level of service]. We’d like to know what it would cost to keep our Bentley.”

County commissioners were scheduled to give initial consideration to the plan earlier this month, but deferred it until their meeting on Feb. 24. May said he did not think the delay indicated that commissioners were opposing the plan. “I think they just want to make sure the county has enough time [to get familiar with the proposal],” May said.

Commissioner Nancy Jester of Dunwoody, who represents the northern end of the county, agreed the delay did not signal that commissioners would balk at the proposal. “It’s a big change,” she said. “I do think it’s great to take change slowly. … DeKalb has not raised garbage fees since 2006. We either have to decide to make a change in service or that fund gets raised.”

If the commissioners approve the plan, it will take months to implement it, May told his audience in Brookhaven.

The county plans to distribute new 65-gallon, plastic garbage containers to homes. Equipment installed on garbage trucks will “tip” the new containers, emptying the garbage automatically, county officials say.

The new program reduces the cost of garbage pickup by requiring fewer workers and by making the job less hazardous for sanitation workers, thereby reducing workers’ compensation claims, said Billy Malone, manager of the county sanitation department. May said the job reductions would come through regular turnover, not firings.

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

6 replies on “DeKalb considering trimming home garbage pickups”

  1. I was in the pilot program and I’m still receiving 1 day a week pick-up; I also participate in the recycling program. It doesn’t get any simpler than placing everything at the curb on the same day (night before pick-up).

    The best thing about it is keeping those huge trucks off of residential streets (which are already in need of repair/infrastructure).

    I can afford the Rolls-Royce level service but I’m not in need of it. After separating recyclables I usually have only 1-2 bags of ‘trash’. Others may not be in a position to pay for RR level service.

    If there are certain areas with enough residents that prefer that level of service then by all means allow them to pay for it for their area only.

  2. I always wondered why Dekalb was the only county (that I’m aware of anyway) that does trash pickup twice a week and recycling on a totally seperate day entirely…this is just stupid. When I lived in Cobb, there was no county pickup of trash and recycles…you pay an outside company to do it instead. Why not eliminate it all together and go private party instead? I didn’t have any problems with my once a week pickup of trash and recycles both on the same day. If people really need trash pickup twice a week, you may want to rethink how much “trash” you really have. I mean come on…and if you recycle, there’s little to no trash for pickup. I only leave trash out once a week due to recycling and it’s only one plastic bag at most. Go to once a week and move on…and do both recycle and trash on the same day…can’t get any easier than that? Why do you think Dekalb has to post a schedule for pickup? Because they are picking up items multiple days a week. This is not rocket science but then again, we are dealing with government LOL!

  3. They need to post a schedule, because as easy as it is for most of us to figure out the days for pickup when there’s a holiday during the week, it is clearly not that easy for others. Trash cans lining the streets a day early is not only unsightly but also unsanitary. Even with one day a week pickup I still see this being an issue for some. It’s not rocket science, and baffles me everytime it happens.

  4. DeKalb county is a joke and should be ashamed of themselves for again having big city problems and using country resources to solve them. The county is too huge! It needs to be broken down into 4 separate counties and bring in effective leadership. We pay and pay and pay and yet the answer is always downsize services?!!! Stupidity continues! The City of Lithonia is sad, dirty and looks like its stuck in the year 1975 and 2015 stopped by to add traffic congestion, trash, section 8 and high crime rates

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