MOULTRIE -- A deal's a deal, county commissioners told garbage collectors struggling to fulfill their contract.

Tuesday, the county commission gave TransWaste Services of Albany five days to come back with a plan of action to improve poor trash pick-up service in the county. If the contractor fails to do this, the county might choose to proceed with legal action for breach of contract, said County Administrator J.D. Byrd.

The company entered into a five-year contract with the county at a rate well under the market in 2004. TransWaste has contracted with Colquitt County since 1998 and have had good service until its trucks began breaking down, Residential Compliance Director Pete Reizman said. Earlier in the year, the county bid out the contract only to gauge the market rate when TransWaste had initially asked for a rate hike. TransWaste again came in as the lowest bidder but at a substantial increase from the current rate. The county didn't act on the bid, but instead continued on under the 2004 contract.

Neil Adcox of TransWaste once again appealed to the county board to increase garbage service fees by $4.51 per month per household so it can afford to replace problematic trucks in an effort to improve service. Adcox said TransWaste was "at the mercy" of the board, but the commissioners were resolute in their insistence that TransWaste live up to its end of the deal.

"We're simply coming to you asking for some help. We certainly understand our contractual obligations to you all, but we're simply asking you in good faith to consider giving us some help. If you elect not to do that, that's fine. As we've done in the past, we will pledge to you to continue to do the very best we can with what we've got to provide good service to your citizens," Adcox said.

Chairman Max Hancock said that the county can't justify a fee increase with garbage left too often on the side of the road for days. Unless there's a definitive improvement in service, he won't support a rate hike, he said. Byrd told Adcox that county road crews had to be sent out to clean up roadways when pick-up stalled.

Commissioners and the county residential garbage department has been bombarded by calls from irate residents. Over the past two months, 666 people called to complain about garbage service -- and that's not counting multiple complaints, weekend calls and callers who wouldn't leave their names, Reizman said.

Adcox emphasized that TransWaste can't replace the trucks without a rate increase but will do everything aside from that to improve service, namely switching out equipment within the large, multi-state company and rerouting for efficiency.

"We would never, ever -- ever purposely provide bad service to you or anyone else. We just wouldn't do it," Adcox said.

The county tried to buy out the contract, but so far its offers aren't enough for TransWaste to sell. Instead, the company is opting to continue at a substantial financial loss. Interestingly, according to figures given to County Attorney Bill McCalley by the company, TransWaste actually had expected to lose $438,241 from the service contract. Now the company's challenges with deteriorating equipment, rising maintenance costs and double fuel costs are going to up its losses to $611,005.

"Any way you cut it, they were going to lose money," McCalley said.

To that, Commissioner Billy Herndon said, "Well, I think if you don't give us service and stay in the contract, you've done Colquitt County wrong."

The county continues to entertain the prospect of going into the trash business for itself. But the county administrator estimates that also would require a fee increase, albeit a smaller one of $1 or $2 more per month per household.

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