District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery addresses concerns about Golden Triangle Waste Management Services as District 2 Supervisor Orland Trainer listens. Supervisors opted to stay with GTWS but recommended its director, Betty Farmer, be terminated.
Photo by: Alex Holloway/Dispatch Staff
August 7, 2018 10:50:39 AM
The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors voted to recommend the Golden Triangle Waste Services board fire Director Betty Farmer, after a vote to split from the multi-county garbage collection agency failed.
The problem, as GTWS board member and Lowndes County Board of Supervisor President Harry Sanders described it after the meeting, is that Farmer already submitted her resignation last week.
Monday's vote came after supervisors were in executive session for a little longer than an hour, to cap a nearly five-and-a-half-hour-long meeting. After returning to open session, District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery moved for the county to switch to Arrow Disposal Services, Inc. for garbage collection. District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller seconded the motion, but Board President Orlando Trainer, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams voted it down -- a move that effectively means the county will continue to use GTWS following a months-long debate on whether to change waste service providers.
Trainer then moved to recommend Farmer's termination, which passed on a 3-1 vote, with Howard opposed and Miller abstaining.
Howard, who has replaced Montgomery as one of Oktibbeha County's representatives on the GTWS board, said he felt Farmer had been better for Oktibbeha County than other supervisors give her credit for. He also said Farmer had indicated she wanted to step down soon.
"Since I've been a member of that executive board, Ms. Farmer has been extremely accommodating to requests coming from Oktibbeha County," Howard said. "I've been able to have good communications and a good working relationship with Ms. Betty.
"Ms. Betty has decided she's not planning on working much longer anyway, so I felt like we shouldn't force her out," he added. "We should allow the process to take place."
Trainer: Farmer is 'where all the problems are'
Supervisors have been considering a change in waste service providers since the beginning of the year, citing complaints about GTWS, including the company not providing enough garbage cans for residents. They also have noted personality conflicts with Farmer.
Golden Triangle Waste Services was formed in 1997 to provide garbage pickup for Oktibbeha, Lowndes and Webster counties, and supervisors from the three counties serve on the GTWS board. The company also provides services to Choctaw County and the cities of Columbus, Eupora and Mathiston.
Trainer, who has generally advocated for supervisors working through issues with GTWS rather than switching providers, said he realized Farmer seems to be the crux of the board's issues with GTWS. He said during Monday's meeting he expected the GTWS board would ignore the county's recommendation, but he wanted to send a "strong statement" to the organization.
"That's where all the problems are," he said. "I don't have anything but a good relationship with Ms. Farmer. But it's sad that all the unrest has hinged on one employee. Either the board is going to be able to handle Ms. Farmer or they need to look at the possibility of new leadership.
"If the county stays, I think the county deserves a much better working relationship with the director of that organization," Trainer later added. "If that can't happen, that's when you look at the possibility of doing something different."
Sanders, however, said the county's vote came too late. Neither Howard nor Williams attended the last GTWS board meeting. If they had, Sanders said, they would have known Farmer intended to resign.
"They ain't got the authority to do that," he said of Oktibbeha County's recommendation. "Besides, Betty Farmer has already turned in her resignation saying she's going to retire at the end of September. It has nothing to do with what people in Oktibbeha County are doing. It has to do with her health and her husband's health."
Sanders said Farmer has already recommended a replacement, whom the board tentatively agreed to hire at its next meeting, pending an interview for the job. He did not identify the candidate by name, but said it was a current female GTWS employee.
While some supervisors have placed the blame of Oktibbeha County's poor relationship with GTWS on Farmer, Sanders said the street runs both ways.
"It personally seems to me that supervisors from Oktibbeha County are more concerned about their re-election than they are running Golden Triangle Waste Services in a profitable, smooth operation," Sanders said. "(GTWS is) an autonomous, separate organization. I personally think their county hat is on, or their district hats, instead of thinking about what's best for Golden Triangle Waste."
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