CITIZENS AIR CONCERNS, BUT NO ACTION TAKEN ON BRENHAM-BIG SANITATION AGREEMENT

  

The Brenham City Council heard an earful today (Thursday) from residents who voiced concerns about the city’s prospective decision to outsource sanitation operations to Brannon Industrial Group (BIG).

City Manager James Fisher (right) explains details of an agreement in the works with Brannon Industrial Group (BIG) to Brenham City Councilmember Keith Herring. No action on the agreement was taken at Thursday's meeting.

When it came time for a vote, however, none was taken. City Manager James Fisher informed councilmembers that no action would be required from them at this meeting, as the general and commercial sanitation agreements were not yet fully prepared.  He said the final drafts of those agreements would come before them at their next meeting on March 5th.

Fisher explained to those in attendance that this decision to outsource dated back to conversations held in early budget workshops last year. He said the city did consider keeping operations internal, but after extensive research, it was determined that the most cost-effective method would be the outsourcing route.

 

 

Public Works Director Dane Rau explained cities like Bellville and Caldwell have already made moves similar to what Brenham is currently considering. He added the city’s current sanitation practices are no longer sustainable, at least not without major cost increases for both the city and its customers.

 

 

Both Fisher and Rau stressed that keeping rates fair for residents and businesses is a priority of theirs, and said provisions to protect against rate increases are being considered.

Several city and county residents came forward and addressed city officials with their worries, including county resident Diane Hodde, who said she is concerned about the possible closing of the city’s Recycling Center on Market Street. Hodde, who lives in the Salem area, said she uses it two to three times per week, and that it would be inconvenient for her to travel to the city’s collection/transfer station on Old Chappell Hill Road.

Another citizen said he could not understand how the city would be losing $200,000 per year to the general fund without the operation of the sanitation department. Fisher explained that between $350,000 and $360,000 was transferred from the sanitation fund into the general fund each year, and that would go away.  Since BIG has its own internal administrative departments such as human resources and information technology, it would not need to use the city’s administrative departments, which the city’s sanitation department utilized.

Dave Hall asked how the cost of resident trash collection could go up, yet trash pickup services would decrease from twice a week to once a week. Fisher answered that if the city were to continue doing it just the way they are now, the rates would go up, and there would be no curbside recycling.

City of Brenham Gas Superintendent Ande Bostain (right) and fellow members of the gas department are recognized for receiving a 100 percent rating for the city's gas utility system.

A new resident to the city said he does not think this decision is a good idea, and is worried about keeping the city clean. Meanwhile, a resident of the Atlow addition said the new containers will not fit in her garage, and she has no room outside to store them, adding that they are not very pretty to look at.  She said she wants to see the numbers on how this is a good idea for the city.

BIG President Blake Brannon said he completely understands this change may be difficult for residents, but reassured that since they are a local company, Brenham is their city too, and they take great pride in it.

Also at Thursday's meeting, councilmembers:

  • Recognized the City of Brenham Gas Department, which in 2019 received a 100 percent rating on its gas utility system from the Texas Municipal League’s Intergovernmental Risk Pool.
  • Heard the Brenham Police Department’s 2019 annual report and crime analysis, racial profiling report, use of force report, and pursuit report.
  • Accepted a $4,999,991 bid from Lindsey Construction for a project related to the raw water intake repair at Lake Somerville.  FEMA will reimburse the project at a 75-25 percent share, with the city’s 25 percent financed through its utility fund.  A reimbursement resolution will come before the council on March 5th.
  • Accepted a bid of $953,201 from 5-T Utilities of Huntsville for a project related to the Baker Katz development sanitary sewer improvements.
  • Approved a resolution providing for support for Trinity Brenham Trails, LP’s submission of an application to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs requesting 2020 housing tax credits for the Brenham Trails Development.
  • Approved a resolution providing support for Brazos Trace, LLC’s submission of an application to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, requesting 2020 competitive 9 percent housing tax credits for the Fairview Terrace Development.  The council also confirmed that Fairview Terrace LP, Brazos Trace Brenham, LLC, and the Brenham Housing Authority’s development, Fairview Terrace, located at 700 Eleanor Drive, contributes to concerted revitalization efforts within Brenham city limits.
  • Approved a mutual release and cancellation agreement between the city and ION Wave Technologies, Inc., concerning the master license and services agreement for electronic bidding and contract management software.  ION Wave Technologies released the city from the contract for a one-time payment of $28,750, 50 percent of the total amount due to ION Wave Technologies over the next four years.
  • Approved second reading of an ordinance amending the official zoning map of the city to change the zoning district from a combination of residential and commercial, research and technology district to a planned development district on approximately 76.9 acres of land east of the intersection of Highway 36 and West Blue Bell Road, for the proposed Liberty Village subdivision.
  • Approved a partner location agreement between the city and Tivity Health Services, LLC (Silver Sneakers) related to a fitness partnership at the Blue Bell Aquatic Center.

 

Like
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry
66

22 Comments

  1. Government having meetings during the day when the taxpayers are making money to pay for the city operations and then taxpayers can’t attend the city council meetings. That’s not government by the people and for the people. That is government by the government and for the government.

  2. Hey, Tired of Negativity, some people just don’t get it. We the people and the real city property tax payers who have been paying taxes for generations have had enough of the ill money management of the new outside management of the city. Have you walked into the city office lately? I have. I walked through the first floor after I paid my utility bill, and exited at courts. I understood why Utility clerks were there. I understood why court clerks were there. But all the other so called employers standing around jaw jabbering like it was a New Years party. What a waste of money. And then the taxpayers are told there is a deficit. And then the taxpayers are told that city employees ride the back of the trash trucks when it is an employment agency. When you see wasted tax dollars, then told that there is. It enough dollars in the budget, and then lied to about the employment structure; is not a wonder why the taxpayers are ticked off? Enough is enough. The city of Brenham management need to do their jobs and realize that Brenham citizens don’t have time to pay their learning curve. Enough said!

  3. Based on the feedback maybe the city should table the coming vote until a special vote can be made by the residents that pay the city tax and vote according to a simple majority of the constituents of their precinct according to a top three option choice. If you must, vote on the what the different options are with the tax price tag attached to each over the next 5-10 years. If this won’t be done by the council then you should seriously consider what kind of leadership you really have here.

    Maybe the county residents can be involved to pay an annual tax for drop off and recycling that is not nearly as much as curbside or non resident drop off fees but still pays for the running of the trash center. Maybe that’s what it will take to keep things running smoothly.

    Nothing exists in government that is not completely reversible. A contract maybe binding but a precedent is not. But contracts are broken all the time and government only exists because the citizens allow it. So if you can’t be adequately represented then you should consider what those tax dollars are really doing.

    1. I agree. A referendum election question added for the next city election would cost almost nothing and solve this mess once and for all. Let the people decide if their city council members continue to ignore the majority of taxpayers on this issue.

      Garbage pickup is one of the most basic instances of local government impacting its citizens. Before the people of Brenham watch a deaf and insensitive city council give up the current popular system, let’s allow a referendum vote.

      Before people of Brenham pay more for once-per-week pick up, let the taxpayers decide for themselves what their limitations may be to keep it as it is and not hand it to a for-profit company.

      Either vote on the issue or vote for new city council members! Either way the people need to be heard.

  4. GOOD GRIEF I had no idea this city/county was full of SO MANY Negative Nellies!!! I cannot believe the complaining and moaning and groaning. You all are sitting back and being keyboard warriors and not really offering any solutions, just griping about the decisions being made by the City employees. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the employees don’t take lightly any decision made at the expense of your tax dollars. How do I know? Because I ASK QUESTIONS. If I don’t understand or something sounds “dumb” or “wasteful”, I pick up the phone or email people and find answers. I’ve sat in the office of the CFO for over an hour at a time before while she explained part of the budge to me and answered EVERY question. Did I always agree? No, but at least I had more information and could understand the WHY. I also work and can’t always make a 1:00 meeting but you know what? I can make a phone call during the day to ask who to talk to, then send an email off in the evening when I get home and ask question and – here’s the kicker – I bet you get a reply! (Presuming you’re civil and not El Groucho like you are on here…)
    Prices are going up! Service is going down! It’s going to cost too much! It’s going to smell! From what I saw, yes, the price is going up — 25¢ a month ($13.75 to $14?). THREE DOLLARS A YEAR. You can probably find half of that picking up pennies in parking lots over the next 12 months. The city I grew up in had pickup once a week….. and the city certainly never gave us giant containers to keep our bags in for the week!! Good heavens how did we EVER manage?!
    I am SO GLAD that the City has decided to outsource this to a LOCAL COMPANY. Specifically, this company! BIG is an awesome business made up of your neighbors, people sitting next to you in the pew at church, or at a t-ball game, or the next table at a restaurant. They aren’t going anywhere! They understand the need to balance their interests with the tax payers’ – BECAUSE THEY PAY THE SAME TAXES. I have complete faith that all the questions (in the form of your griping) will eventually be answered…. there’s a LOT of information and details to consider. Give both parties the time to find solutions. Nothing is signed yet!
    In the meantime, all of you griping and complaining: I expect EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. YOU. to file as a candidate in the next two rounds of council elections. Stop hiding in the safety and cover of your computer. You think you have all the answers to every problem this City has? You know better how to manage a budget of however many MILLIONS of dollars it costs to run a city? Get out there, file for the position, get on board and YOU see just how complicated the issues are! GEEZ.

    1. Just to be clear, I am not now nor have I ever been a “Negative Nellie”. Opposing a change and speaking your mind about a matter involving a local government managed service is the right, and in fact the DUTY of every citizen. If we do not speak up our voices and our opinions will not be heard and considered. I will go even further and state that not only are we NOT BEING NEGATIVE , we are saying the we like our current service, our current price, and the overall approach to waste collection we have enjoyed as a city, and we believe this change is not an improvement but rather a loss of services. This is not about BIG or any of their employees, this is about OUR city and the way it is being managed. Some of us have tried emailing and have failed to get a response and our email was nice, polite, and respectful. The fact is that the city should have held townhall events in the evening, or created an online portal allowing people to voice their thoughts and opinions, or created some other method seeking citizen feedback before agreeing to a change this drastic. They completely failed as our representatives by not seeking our input. This is not a routine day to day change, this impacts many people and they did nothing to hear our concerns before getting to the point of agreeing to this service.

      1. I completely agree with and support Not Negative’s comment. This is not negativity. This is civil action based on responsibility, and our citizens are asking for the City to clearly outline how a price increase for less service specifically solves the financial crisis the City states it needs to address,…exactly How and When (specifically) would this outsource contract to BIG solve the financial problem the City says we have,…and for how long?

  5. As a City Resident, I understand the need for change. The need for safe procedures. I understand things aren’t like they were 30 years ago. No one likes change. No one likes to have to pay more. But we are all paying more for things.. Milk, Bread, Gas, Cars, Houses, Cloths… you name it, everything costs… Inflation has gone up and continues each year. No one complains when they spend hundreds of dollars on a new phone just because it has a new feature. WHAT ABOUT THE POSITIVES.. The city will not have to invest in new fleet to replace current garbage trucks. The city will not have to continue to struggle for employees or pay double for temp people. We will have MORE days of trash pick up since BIG stated there are only 3 holidays their trucks don’t run… BIG lives and works in our community and will take pride in the service they are providing. I have head people complain about loosing trash bags, but we are getting really good trash cans. I know my family of 4 wont fill up that trash can in a week especially with CURB SIDE RECYCLING now… I am EXCITED about that, maybe my family will recycle more since we don’t have to separate, we don’t have to package up and haul downtown. And the recycling center… Really it isn’t much farther to take to collection station. take the loop and avoid traffic. Change is not fun, but Change is necessary… THANK YOU City of Brenham, Mayor, Council, City Manager and all involved for the countless hours you have spent on this to make it as painless as possible.

    1. This change is NOT needed if the financial agenda and priorities changed, and that can come in the next election. You are taking the approach that “change is inevitable” but that can sometimes cause bad decisions to be made for short term gain. Much like a sugar rush from too much candy. The priorities of this city are flawed if they are delivering fewer services for more money, and the fact that the company being handed the contract is local is not relevant, nor does it change the facts. The facts are that city residents will pay more money for once-per-week trash pick up. This is a privatization of services that the public does not want and it will be remembered most likely when city council elections are held.

  6. For all of you that used this forum to voice your complaints during the last 10 days—- Where were you during the council meeting yesterday ??? Only five citizens spoke at the meeting.
    Obviously, you want to “talk the talk” but cannot “walk the walk”. How disappointing !!!!!

    1. As some who has used this forum to voice an opinion, I was at work! As badly as I wanted to be there and take part, I have a full time job that does not allow me to miss at 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon. Perhaps the council should consider holding a town hall meeting at time when citizens who work full time can attend. This is perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of this whole discussion, the framework for these discussions were done in a behind the scenes workshop where the buy in and agreement of the council is sought without ANY input from the citizens who are being impacted and then this is simply announced as final agreements are being prepared. This is now how representative government should work. Our elected officials should be actively seeking our input on major things like this that impact so many people, but instead they are being done in the dark.

      I did speak with someone who is there at the meeting and it is obvious that the council is receiving information ONLY from city staff and are buying what they are being told “hook line and sinker” without really checking out what is really going on. One example “they are hiring through temp services for garbage truck workers, anyone who has worked those services knows that turnover among temp service employees is always higher than hiring people on your own payroll. But it takes work and effort to do that. The people who run this for the city seem to have just said it is to much work and are looking for the easiest way out of doing the hard work to maintain the excellent waste services we have. I have said it before, this whole deal is bad for citizens and it smells like the garbage we will be forced to store at our homes!

    2. I was at work and the city sets these meetings in the middle of a work day. However I will support any of the five citizens who did speak up if and when they decide to run in the next city council election.

      The next election needs to be about “taking out the garbage” … and that phrase can be taken any way you want to interpret it. Enough is enough. Less services for more money is not progress. Twice a week pick up cut to once per week is not an improvement. Ugly carts left in streets all week is not the way to increase tourism or charm for our beautiful city.

      I think there have been a series of questionable policy decisions by the city council over the past years, be it unelected debt issues (certificates of obligations is the term) or drainage fees, perhaps this garbage issue will finally wake up the voters and attract some new candidates.

    3. I’ve been voicing my concerns on this website, and I took time away from work to attend the City Council Meeting. It wasn’t easy to do. I’m glad I did, but disappointed in the lack of City Council engagement on this topic. I learned a bit in the meeting, and since the meeting. The most important thing I learned is, “Buckle up Brenham.” The rate you pay monthly for Sanitation Services is going to increase approximately 11%. This is basically a done deal, and the City Council will be asked to vote for and approve this on March 5th. And and all indications point to them unanimously approving this, basically with no opposition. Oh, and you’ll be required to adhere to new City Ordinances that will be put in place to support this (and you’ll be charged on your monthly Utility Bill if/when you fail to do so).
      At one point, one Council Member actually stated something like (sic), “…we’ve been spoiling our Brenham residents for years,…” (implying the City has been ‘over serving’ its citizens while subsidizing (or not properly charging for or recuperating the proper cost for this service). I was stunned to hear this. This is of great concern. What other services is the City providing that they are currently “over serving” our residents and not being cost-effectively and cost-efficiently managed? Because my fellow citizens, those various items will soon be coming to the table for an increase to you as well. I am extremely disappointed in the City of Houston, the Mayor, and the City Council.
      I’ve sent two Emails about this topic to the City Council member responsible for the part of town I live in, and have yet to receive a response.
      When any organization makes a strategic decision to outsource ANY part of its business, costs either go DOWN while service either increases or stays the same. In either case, costs go DOWN because resources are transferred or removed.
      The City of Brenham feels that the addition of curbside recycling 2X per month (as part of this deal with BIG) is an added service that more than justifies the 11% increase. I don’t see the economics of this, especially given the global landscape of recycling today (i.e. the prices of selling recycled material have dropped dramatically). Why should we pay for curbside recycling when we haven’t had it to this point, we don’t have it today, and it’s NOT a profitable business? Wait a second,…unless we the citizens will now be subsidizing BIG to recycle…to help them partially cover the costs of the current horrible recycling economics(?).
      I absolutely disagree with the City’s plan on this issue, and more importantly, I’ve lost a SIGNIFICANT amount of trust in the Mayor, the City Council, and the entire City Administration in effectively representing us and managing our financial resources.

      1. I do my recycling & I don’t want to be billed for this &,certainty don’t want the bin to place recycling in. Citizens SHOULD BE GIVEN THE OPTION if they want the Recycling Curbside & pay the cost or not…I will be billed for the bin & service but will not use it. Why should I have to house 2 bins on rollers & for one dont have the place to keep 1 let alone 2 . There are many of us that dont have the room or place to store this. I take my recycling to the center like many, many other residents. City council needs to leave the recycling as it is & has worked & folks continue taking their recycling on their own. Households that haven’t done recycling aren’t going to start now….it’ll end up in the garbage bags & landfills. Too many people don’t realize what is happening to the landfills w/all the plastic, glass,etc. therefore don’t realize the importance of recycling. In answer to contacting the City Council member that covers your part of town I was told by a City EE when I called that there’s not one particular council person covers sections of the City ….suppose that means u can contact everyone of them & all serve all sections of town.. Maybe that’s why no reply to your email. The City has yet to submit a Balance Sheet showing how the deficit of $351,000. came to be. Thats the first thing Council members should have requested before going any further. I hope the 5 ?? council members think what this will do to citizens living on fixed incomes or ones barely making ends meet before they VOTE YES. Citizens cannot afford the increases & should be given OPTION if you want both services. On a final note – the Council Member that stated “we’ve spoiled our citizens”…. With what? We have all paid for ALL services. I don’t call that SPOILED. The name of that council member is noted in the minutes taken & I’m sure a copy of the minutes can be requested.

    4. It is hard to attend a meeting at 1:00 pm when you have to work out of town to afford to live here. Since the city keeps raising taxes and service fees. It would be nice if the meeting cold be held say at 6:00 pm. But I guess that will not happen.

  7. Great more stall tactics by the city. Has anyone mention about the people that park on the street through the city. will this effect the pick up. I think the main reason it will be once a week is that it will take twice as long to pick now because the truck has to travel down both side of the street now. What about the yards that are sloped to the street and have no flat area to place the unit. Will it sit in the street? I am all for progress to improve the quality of life. But I think unelected people making major decisions is wrong. We need to let the city council know how we feel come election time.

    1. EXACTLY! All GREAT points. Remember this at election time. City council has been pulling this “under the radar” stuff for years and spinning it to the residents as a “good thing for growth” and “we are doing what’s best for the city” instead of admitting their incompetence to be able to run their departments effectively and efficiently. Demand transparency from your local government or vote them out!

  8. I don’t have the answer to what is the right or wrong way to handle sanitation in the city but this outsourcing process has made it clear to me that our city budget is being mismanaged. Before any agreements are signed, the city should have a plan to handle the deficit they claim this will create. If the deficit will be created by unnecessary administrative staff, then the simple answer is that plan should include the downsizing of administrative staff. I personally believe the administative department isn’t contributing $350,000 of work to the sanitation department but instead the city has been overbilling residents for sanitation and plundering the sanitation fund for the general fund. A small business owner can tell you it doesn’t cost anywhere near that to keep up with IT, HR, and payroll for a handful of employees. Now the city will lose that extra income and just tax us all more to make up for it while at the same time we will pay more for outsourced sanitation. First it was the drainage utility charge, which will never go away now that we have it, and now residents will keep footing the bill for what the city manager is implying will be an oversized administrative department. The truth is we have all lived in the dark for years and now we are finally seeing that the city can’t maintain a budget.

    1. I so agree.. it’s like spending money on your flower beds when you have a leaking roof. Spending priorities are gone in city hall. I blame the Council and Mayor. They should be our checks and balance but instead the are rubber stamps.

  9. Like many other residents, I’m not too happy about this. However, after the meeting today I understood a lot more why these decisions are being made and I am less worried. I still think the city should have made more of an effort to involve residents in this much earlier in the game. This should have been in your FB feed, plastered on your website, and in local media the second you decided to outsource. And you should have had the meetings when people with jobs could attend. This may have been the most responsible decision given your constraints, but you don’t have the right to exclude us by meeting under the radar. I hope this is a teachable moment for citizens of Brenham. We need to demand information and accountability, or we will continue to be informed of this stuff only after it’s done. I will end my rant on a positive note: thank you Mayor for moving this issue to the top of the agenda so we could get back to work. I appreciate you being respectful of our time.

Back to top button
Close