With little debate, the Lafourche Parish Council approved a new garbage collection contract Tuesday night, estimated to save the parish about $2 million in the first year.
The council unanimously voted to accept the five-year contract with River Birch Renewable Energy.
The only question on the new vendor came from Councilman Jerry Lafont, who expressed concern that bagged garbage, not inside a trashcan, would not be picked up. A dump site in Larose would also be removed under the new terms as it’s operated under the terms of the old vendor, Republic.
Solid Waste Manager Jerome Danos said the new contract does have stronger language about only collecting what trash is placed in the cans to help increase efficiency of pickup, but the new company has the “full intent to pick up all trash.”
River Birch will also continue to pick up bulky waste twice a month.
While the council members said they had no complaints about Republic’s service, the decision came down to the money.
Under the new contract, the parish will pay $15.50 per household, per month. The current contract rate is $20.17 per household, per month.
At 34,580 households in 2020, the parish will pay $535,990 per month, or $6.4 million a year.
Under the $20.17 rate with Republic, the parish would have paid $697,478 per month, or $8.4 million a year. That equates to a roughly $2 million savings in the first year.
Under the contract terms, the rate will rise 50 cents each year until the 2024 calendar year, when the consumer price index will be used to adjust the rate.
Parish officials, including Councilmen Jerry Jones and Daniel Lorraine have said this savings is enough to keep the parish from dipping into other revenue outside of the garbage sales tax.
“This is a miracle and this is a no-brainer,” Lorraine said.
After a failed attempt to increase the sales tax last year, Danos reminded the council that just a few months ago the parish was facing a reduction in services before the new contract was presented.
The council formed a solid waste committee to review possible contracts. The committee met twice, the second time voting to approve the contract with River Birch.
“I’m ready to conceive this baby,” Jones, a member of the committee, said before the vote.
The council also voted in support of an intergovernmental agreement between the parish and the Lafourche Council on Aging to help restore some services under federal grant programs.
For roughly 30 years, the Council on Aging, which is not a department of the parish, has been working with the Office of Community Action to help administer Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program money to the elderly, Lorraine said.
With the recent shake-up in the Community Action office, the Council on Aging has been virtually shut out of that role, Director Charlene Rodriguez said.
The agreement may be the first step in restoring that partnership and getting the agency included on the federal grant paperwork.
Lorraine said the Council on Aging went from helping 379 people with the energy assistance program in 2017 and 2018, to just 16 people in 2019 due to these problems. Those numbers do not include residents directly served by the Community Action office.
“If we were doing it wrong for over 30 years, let’s find a way to make it right,” Lorraine said.
“The system’s broke on every angle. All of it needs to be revamped and started from scratch,” Lafont said.
Parish Administrator Timothy Vedros said later that the administration has begun interviewing candidates for Community Action director.
Jones said those interviews should be conducted by the Community Action Advisory Board, but the board has not met for months.
-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.
Posted on Fri, May 17, 2019
by By Julia Arenstam Daily Comet Staff Writer