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Trash, budget focus of city board meeting

JUNK PILE – This huge pile of junk and others like it had been common sites around town after Republic Services was unable to remove the debris due to lack of drivers. This was one of the items discussed between Humboldt City Board members and Republic’s Brandon Pollock last week.

by DANNY WADE | Senior Editor

As the Humboldt Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting was about to begin, Mayor Marvin Sikes asked the board to include a new agenda item. He wanted to have an update on the budget and the search for a new CMFO to replace the retired Kim Hadley.

Mayor Sikes said he did not put the item on the original agenda since he was not sure he would have any new information. The board agreed to amend the agenda.

Two items on the agenda took up the vast majority of the meeting—the budget and trash pickup.

Brandon Pollock, operations manager for Republic Services, attended the meeting to answer any questions from the board. The city contracts with Republic for residential trash bins, dumpsters and bulk (items and yard debris placed beside the street) pickup.

Mayor Sikes said he and the staff at city hall have been “catching ‘h’, ‘e’, ‘double l’.

Alderman Leon McNeal did not hold back when he addressed Pollock. McNeal said the city board had gone through this before with Republic and that the board wanted to do away with their contract, but the city was “in a spot” and could not cancel the contract and not have trash pickup for the city.

“People are tired of garbage not being picked up—trash is everywhere,” McNeal said to Pollock. “We’re holding you accountable. It’s not acceptable.”

Pollock asked McNeal if he was talking about bulk (dumpsters and road side) or residential.

Alderman Shane Lynch replied, “Both.”

“I drive (around) this town and there are parts of town that have not been picked up for weeks,” Mayor Sikes also responded.

Pollock admitted that was not acceptable, but noted Republic lost two drivers within five days, including their best bulk driver.

Alderwoman Julie Jones-Coleman said the problem is when the cart is picked up, the drivers drop the cart and trash goes everywhere.

This did not sit well with Pollock. He said he would give everybody his cellphone number and asked the board and city hall to call him when they seeing something like this happen.

There was also discussion about dumpsters, which is included in Republic’s contract. Alderwoman Tammie Porter said when the dumpsters get full, people either toss it on top or drop it beside the dumpster. Then, the wind blows trash everywhere.

What Porter was talking about spurred more conversation. Lynch and Mayor Sikes said people are not supposed to throw their trash into dumpsters. The businesses pay for the dumpsters and are the only ones supposed to use them. Lynch went a step further and said he has seen vehicles with Crockett County tags throwing their trash in his dumpster behind his business.

Pollock had a remedy for illegal dumping. He said the dumpsters can be equipped with a locking system. Some businesses around town already use them.

Porter said that a lock might keep them from throwing trash into the dumpster, but they would still drop it off beside the dumpster.

McNeal said the city should fine people $500 for illegally using the dumpsters, to which Porter said that amount was too high. McNeal said it was not too high and the city needs to set an example.

Another issue the city has with Republic was brought up by Humboldt City Clerk Marquita Patterson. Patterson said the city used to keep new trash bins in stock and when a citizen called to report a broken bin, the city would bring a new one and pick up the broken one. That worked very well, but that stopped for some reason, Patterson said to Pollock. Patterson also said when Republic would drop off a new bin, they would not pick up the broken ones.

Pollock said the driver is supposed to pick up the damaged bin when they bring the new one. He also said Republic would bring new cans for the city to keep on-hand when citizens report a damaged bin for replacement.

After all the discussion, Pollock promised Republic would do a better job, but noted keeping drivers could be an issue.

The board seemed pleased with Pollock’s statements. McNeal thanked Pollock for coming to the board and told him  that being at the meeting might have saved the contract.

Another item added to the agenda was discussion on the city’s budget and an update of finding a new city financial officer.

Mayor Sikes told the board that he has been in contact with MTAS’s Eric Spencer for assistance with the city’s 2023-24 fiscal year budget. Sikes was also on the phone with the comptroller’s office to keep them abreast of the situation with losing their CMFO and getting a budget approved.

Sikes said Spencer would be coming the week of this board meeting (last week) to go over the department head’s requests to see how far off those figures are with the projected revenues.

Lynch asked Mayor Sikes if he was only using local media as the avenue to find a new financial officer. He asked if the city was using online search sites. The mayor said they were, including the city’s website and others.

Mayor Sikes told the board that August 31 is the critical time to have a budget set or the state could begin holding back funds. He also noted that some line items are beginning to “work in the red” by operating on last year’s budget.

While speaking with the comptroller’s office, Sikes asked if the city could take last year’s budget and use it while tweaking certain line items to make changes. He was told the city should do this.

Lynch was not sure about using last year’s figures in hopes of getting city employees pay increases. He noted that Milan had given its police officers a $3 raise.

Mayor Sikes said they could look into raises, but if the money is not there, they would have to look at other means to bring in revenue such as raising taxes. Sikes said that would be a decision made by the board.

McNeal suggested the board allow Mayor Sikes to move forward with the budget, working with MTAS and the comptroller’s office, to come up with a budget for the board to vote on. All members agreed.

In other board action:

•The board approved the resignation of firefighter Briyona Batchelor. Batchelor was hired earlier this year in March. She made history by being the first female firefighter ever with the Humboldt Fire Department.

In her letter of resignation, Batchelor said her resignation was due to personal circumstances beyond her control and she has to relocate. She said she enjoyed her time the HFD and being the first female was a high honor and her firefighter brothers who served alongside of her, made sure she felt right at home.

The board approved Batchelor’s resignation.

•The board approved a beer permit application for Mary Fleming for carry-out only at SQRL Service Station (Valero’s) located at 2990 East End Dr.

In the letter submitted by Police Chief Reynard Buchanan, he noted that the business had possessed a beer permit until it was suspended for selling beer to a minor. That permit was issued to Abdul Momin in 2021. He is no longer affiliated with the business, as stated in the letter.

The board unanimously approved the beer permit.

•The newest portion of the city board agenda was concerned citizens comments. Mayor Sikes gave the board information regarding a new state law that mandates boards include a place for citizens to address the board.

In this portion of the meeting, Shaquilla Taylor and her husband signed up to speak, but got most of their answers during the Republic Services’ agenda item discussed earlier in the meeting.

CLAW TRUCK – Humboldt citizens would like to see more of this service of picking up bulk trash and debris from the sides of city streets.

1 Comment

  1. Ella on July 19, 2023 at 5:42 pm

    Humboldt is an eye sore. How about also working on tearing down those old houses just sitting around. And properly repairing those jacked up roads, which seem to always be in the low income areas.

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