Jefferson County families will see a 65% increase in their quarterly garbage bills under an emergency contract amendment with Amwaste approved on Thursday.

The Jefferson County Commission’s vote comes as cities and counties across Alabama are seeing major increases in the cost of garbage collection.

Jefferson County’s contract with Amwaste was not up for renewal, but the company told the county the rates in its current contract were unsustainable “due to significant, unprecedented and unpredictable economic conditions affecting fuel rates and labor costs.”

The county agreed there has a been significant change in economic conditions due to inflation and labor shortages.

“We know the citizens of Jefferson County are getting hit hard with inflation and gas prices, and we certainly don’t want to add to it, but this was the most fair and equitable way for the company to continue to service residents during this difficult time,” said County Manager of Jefferson County Cal Markert. “We are working on longer-term solutions, but this will at least keep the service in place until we’ve had time to thoroughly vet our options.”

Single-family households with yard waste pickup will see quarterly rates rise from $58.68 to $97.08, a 65% increase. Quarterly bills for households without yard waste will jump from $45.15 to $75.70, which is a 68% increase.

Jefferson County’s initial contract with Amwaste allowed for an annual increase of up to 3% to compensate for inflation, but inflation has exceeded that. Data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show prices were up 8.3% nationwide in April, compared to April of 2021. Prices for fuel and diesel far surpass that.

Earlier this month, Amwaste Vice President of Operations Rick Sweeney told 1819 News the cost of diesel fuel is up by 68% and that his garbage trucks each burn about 50 gallons per day. He said Amwaste also had to increase wages for incoming drivers by 18-25%, due to the national driver shortage. He said parts and trucks are also harder to find and more expensive.

Amwaste’s emergency contract amendment with Jefferson County ties rates to fuel costs and allows for a quarterly review. Under that quarterly review, if gas prices go down, garbage rates could also go down.

Many cities and counties across Alabama have either recently increased bills or are preparing to make increases.

In the city of Clay, garbage bills went up 30% in June, under a new agreement with Republic Services.  

In the city of Atmore, garbage bills will go up by 50% in July. The city provides its own garbage service. This is the first increase in rates in 14 years.

In Bullock County, all garbage service is scheduled to end on July 31st if a new contractor is not found.

When Amwaste wanted to raise rates in Bullock County, commissioners decided to try to put the service out for a new bid to try to find a better rate. No company placed a bid. County Commission Chairman Alonza Ellis tells 1819 News there was no backup plan, and the county is not equipped to pick up the trash on its own.

Amwaste also provides trash service for many municipalities across the Birmingham Metro through the Cahaba Solid Waste Authority.

Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, Homewood, Trussville, Clanton and Pelham make up that authority today. Some of the cities already entered into the authority’s negotiated contract with Amwaste, and others have intentions to when their current contracts expire.

At this point, it is unclear if Amwaste will seek rate increases in its agreement with the authority, but Sweeney told 1819 News he’s working to schedule a June meeting to discuss potential increases.

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