Garbage fee still a point of contention
November 6, 2017
By Bill Wilson
The Anniston Star


Cleburne County Commission Chairman Ryan Robertson proposed a resolution to remove the $3 per quarter fee on the residential garbage bill but was met with resistance from his fellow commissioners during the work session Monday night.

Robertson handed out his printed resolution, which would eliminate the fee immediately and would have the county engineer to notify Advanced Disposal to eliminate this expense on all future billings.

Residents have not yet received their quarterly billing, officials said, on which the fee will be a $3-per-quarter — a dollar per month — addition.

Commissioner Laura Cobb spoke up once Ryan had finished handing out the resolution.

“Ryan, is that not the same resolution, basically the same resolution that I put on back last month?” Cobb asked.

Cobb said she tried to take the fee off during a recent meeting and was told by the county attorney that such an action could bring legal liability to the commission on account of the original wording of the bid.  

Cobb said she was fine with leaving the $1 fee alone as long as it could be taken off if the garbage contract bids were too high.

“Unfortunately we weren't aware that under the spec that you couldn’t do that — I brought a resolution to the table trying to take it off because that's what we agreed to do,” Cobb said. Cobb said it could put the county commission into legal liability to take the fee off.

“Not at anytime were we trying to hurt the residents of Cleburne County — we were just trying to make something better for the citizens,” Cobb said.

Cobb referenced an email from the county attorney in June that clarified it was a fee and the legality of the fee was discussed with the Association of County Commissions of Alabama and the fee was deemed legal. Cobb told Robertson that he too received that email along with the other commissioners.

Robertson said he did not know the fee could be legally done.

Cobb reminded the commission Monday she had a resolution on the table to earmark the money collected from the $1 a month fee to fund trash convenience centers for the county residents instead of the two cleanup days each year the county has. Cobb went on to tell the commission of how ineffectual the twice-yearly cleanup days are for the county. Cobb said there are big dump sites cropping up as proof the two annual cleanup days are a failure.

Robertson said he did not want to argue but asked the commission to either take the fee off altogether or else leave it there but make it amount zero.

Commissioner Jake Durham spoke up to squelch the back and forth between Cobb and Robertson.

“I would really appreciate if us as a commission and you as the chair could move on to something a little more productive. We’ve established the fact that we don’t like the fee. My personal opinion it is what it is; we are in a situation right now that we got to get worked out — I think what we are doing right now is highly unproductive,” Durham said.

Cobb then spoke up in response.

“This is my thing: I do not like the citizens to be lied to, they should know the truth,” Cobb said.

Robertson replied, “Are you saying, Miss Cobb, I lied? I did not lie.”

Commissioner Emmett Owen then asked Robertson if he had legal advice for his resolution and Robertson said he just wanted the fee removed.

“I’m not going against my attorney,” Owen said.

After the garbage debate was disposed of, Owen asked the commission to consider if someone else besides the county administrator, Steve Swafford, could put the commission’s meeting agenda together.

Owen said that Swafford needs to be at the meetings considering he makes $60 per hour. Swafford was not at Monday’s work session.

“I think you talk about wasting money in this county — let me tell you, folks — if you go to anywhere in this state and try to find people making some of the salaries that’s being made here — it’s pretty sad, to me,” Owen said.

Commissioner Terry Hendrix echoed Owen’s concern.

“I feel it’s part of his job and if he’s not willing to show up he need to be disciplined for not fulfilling his job,” Hendrix said.

The commission agreed to consider a  resolution which would have county administration employees clock in and out and have a one-hour lunch break.