Beaufort's City Council unanimously approved a five-year contract that outsources city solid waste, recycling and yard debris collection to Waste Pro and will reduce residents' monthly sanitation bills by 50 cents.
The city currently handles those services for both residents and some commercial businesses,and council members agreed the "significant change" would provide essential cost savings to Beau fort.
"This is exactly what we've needed to do for many years," councilman Mike McFee said.
Waste Pro has 60 days to make the transition, during which it will finalize routes and notify the public of changes to their collection days and times, company representatives said in previous presentations.
Residents will still pay the monthly service fee through their BJWSA water and sewer bill.
Initially, Waste Pro said it would keep rates at the $14 a month customers currently pay.
But after calculating cost savings, the contract locks in prices at $13.50 per month for the next five years. The rate will drop after Waste Pro's first full month of service, said City Manager Scott Dadson. No specific date for the takeover has been set.
For the last 11 months, the city's solid waste services cost $204,836 more than they generated in revenue.
Beaufort's relatively small customer base -- about 4,200 households -- coupled with expensive equipment and the man-power necessary to handle the services made for an inefficient system, Dadson said.
"Waste Pro has an ability to save per unit that the city just doesn't," he said.
Mayor Billy Keyserling said he's confident in Waste Pro and thinks council acted deliberately throughout the six-months of discussion.
Keyserling's main concern remains the city's eight sanitation employees, he said.
Waste Pro could potentially hire four to five of them if they meet company requirements. Beaufort does not require its drivers have a commercial driver's license, Keyserling said. Waste Pro does.
"We're going to ask the city to help our workers in any way possible so that they have the qualifications they need to apply," he said.
Employees not hired by Waste Pro could be shifted within the public works department, which maintains city parks and rights-of-way. While city officials have said they don't anticipate layoffs, they have made no firm decision about the fate of the workers.
Overall day-to-day sanitation services are not expected to change significantly.
Customers will continue using the city-owned roll carts and recycling bins.
Councilwoman Donnie Ann Beer "reluctantly" approved the contract, saying she was still uneasy about the city losing control of services.
"Our city workers have been so good and loyal, I just hate the change," she said. "But it's the right thing to do. At this particular time we have to do everything we can do to keep our city running efficiently."