LaFayette is moving to once-a-week garbage pickup as a potential way of controlling costs by abandoning the city's twice-weekly garbage collection service. A one month trial of the new service schedule will begin April 30.
"This had been considered in the past," said City Manager Franklin Etheridge, who made a request at a recent city council meeting for once-weekly pickups. "I'm looking at how to run the sanitation division. It should break even, but last year we lost about $100,000."
Those accustomed to having garbage collection on Mondays and Thursdays will have Thursday-only pickup over the next month, while those who normally have Tuesday and Friday pickups will now have Tuesday as garbage day. The few streets that are too narrow for automated trucks to serve will continue having their garbage collected by workers driving pickup trucks, but they too will now have collections only once a week.
"I would say the vast majority of folks really will find one time a week adequate," Etheridge said.
This Tuesday and Thursday schedule will be tried for four weeks and, unless lots of citizen complaints or problems arise, Etheridge said he expects once-a-week pickup to become permanent.
Around the year 2005 the city shifted from three-man trucks to automated trucks equipped with a boom arm as a cost saving measure - LaFayette was losing about $130,000 a year on its garbage service at the time. When the city began supplying 95-gallon garbage carts and the automated truck to handle them, changing to weekly pickup was talked about but never implemented.
Former city manager Johnnie Arnold reported in 2009 that the "major advantages [of an automated truck] are savings in labor costs." An automated truck eliminated having two men on the back of a truck to pick up garbage cans, which not only cut salaries but also meant less was spent on workers' compensation insurance premiums. While the automated trucks cost about 35-40 percent more to purchase, the reduced operating expenses mean that difference is recovered in about a year of their being placed in service.
"We expect to save at least $30,000 to $40,000 in annual fuel costs alone," Etheridge said of the reduction of pickups, adding that the trial period will help gather more reliable data.
"Our goal is to gather some hard numbers to show it works for the citizens," he said.
Additional savings could be found in lower expenditures for vehicle maintenance as well as fewer road repairs that are the result of wear and tear that garbage trucks cause on residential streets.