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Garbage truck situation causes a stink
Garbage cans

Sanitation can be a dirty business, but a smell of controversy is coming from Warren County’s Sanitation Department. 

Within a month of the Warren County Commission denying a request from Sanitation Department director Josh Roberts to transfer money within his budget with the intention of purchasing a new roll-off truck, Roberts has decommissioned the 1998 truck he wanted to replace. 

On June 28, commissioners voted 11-7 in favor of allowing the transfer to make the purchase. However, all measures require a vote of 13 to pass, so it failed even with a majority of those present voting in favor. 

Commissioners Carlene Brown, David Dunlap, Deborah Evans, Steven Helton, Robert Hennessee, Brad Hillis, Gary Martin, Daniel Owens, Christy Ross, Phillip Stout and Blaine Wilcher voted in favor of the transfer/purchase. 

Commissioners Michael Bell, Carl D. Bouldin, Gary Prater, Scott Rubley, Tommy Savage and Cole Taylor voted against it. 

On July 13, Roberts informed members of the county Building and Grounds Committee the 1998 truck failed an inspection and he could not allow the truck to be in operation due to safety concerns. 

The inspection was dated July 12 and performed by Chris Sullens, owner of Sullens Transport. It cited the following issues: front end needs to be replaced, engine needs to be rebuilt, rear end needs to be replaced, brake system replacement, safety light system replacement, windshield replacement, and tire replacement (10). 

“We were hoping to hold off and replace this truck with the money we had saved from last year in our budget (fiscal year 2020-21),” said Roberts. “It did not get passed. I don’t feel that it’s safe to keep running the truck. Chris Sullens does all of our major maintenance work on our equipment. He did a full inspection. The truck did not pass. It’s a liability to the county to keep it running.”

Roberts says the department had four roll-off trucks and four drivers, so they are down a truck and that driver has been assigned to various other duties.

“We’re going to have to look into renting a truck or putting some money in that truck. That truck has to be put back on the road,” said Roberts. 

Commissioner Robert Hennessee replied, “Why in the world would you take a 1998 truck and put more money into it? Historically speaking, that’s all we’ve ever done. We put money into stuff that will cost even more money down the road, even though it’s inevitable that it has to be replaced. If you have the money in the budget to replace it folks, replace it.” 

Roberts expressed his opinion that some commissioners may have voted against the transfer/ purchase due to the amount of money spent within the department to make upgrades to the convenience centers and the main office on Belmont Drive, as well as the purchase of two new Ford trucks in 2020.

“We’ve spent a lot of money over the last two years, but we haven’t gone over budget,” said Roberts. “Every dime that was budgeted for Sanitation Department was spent in return money each year into our Sanitation fund balance. We’ve got a healthy fund balance. I’ve not come and asked for any more money for the budget. We’re still running on the same budget that we’ve always run on. A lot of money has been spent. That kind of looks bad in some commissioners’ eyes towards me. We brought two new pickup trucks this last year. Some of them didn’t agree with that. It’s just part of it. We’re trying to do the best we can.”

Roberts said he had permission from the county Health and Welfare Committee to purchase the Ford trucks – one for his use and one to transport inmates who assist the department through a Trusty Program at Warren County Jail. 

On July 15, two days later, the failed inspection and subsequent decommissioning of the 1998 roll-off truck was mentioned by county Budget and Finance Committee chair Scott Rubley. 

“A few commissioners have taken it upon themselves to go over to Sanitation and meet with Josh,” said Rubley. “They are discussing some things with him and they’re gathering some information and we should have some more information on that shortly. I’ve talked to Chris Sullens, who did the inspection, and we are investigating that on an individual basis. I’m going to try to get some more information before next month’s meeting.”

No decision was made regarding improvements to the 1998 truck or seeking a rental. Absent from June’s session were Commissioners Randy England, Steve Glenn, Joseph Stotts, Ron Lee, Carl E. Bouldin and Kasey Owens.