When the Morehouse Parish Police Jury purchased the Solid Waste cleanup three years ago, it had a $400,0000 a year deficit, according to MPPJ board member Mark Sistrunk. Now the cleanup entity is doing so well, it was able to purchase their new $130,000 location three months ago in full and in cash.
When the MPPJ purchased Solid Waste three years ago, it was owned by Waste Management, who contracted with the parish to go door to door. Sistrunk, said they were being charged more for the trash to be picked up, than the police jury was collecting in the tax to have it done
"It wasn't Waste Management's fault," he said. "When they began the service, the fees were acceptable, but like with everything else, prices go up."
Sistrunk, who spearheaded the Solid Waste cleanup committee, along with jury board members Floyd Tomboli and Harry Reese, said everyone in town had negative feelings toward the police jury for attempting to take on the Solid Waste project.
"Everybody told us we were crazy [for purchasing Solid Waste cleanup], but we had to figure out a solution for the deficit [without increasing taxes.], " Sistrunk said. "People said a public institution like the police jury couldn't manage a company as well as a private owner, but what people didn't realize was all three of us who were heading it up are successful business men."
With their businesses sense, the three men made their first successful businesses decision before the project ever got under way. Sistrunk said their first and most important decision came when a man turned in a job application to be a driver.
"Hiring Jimmy Turner was was the smartest thing we could have ever done," he said.
Turner, who came out of retirement to apply for the job, had worked in the Waste Management field for 31 years. Sistrunk said when they noticed on his application that he'd been retired for three months, they asked him why he wanted to go back to work so soon.
"He said he was bored sitting at home all day with nothing to do," he said. "He applied for a driver's position, but after his interview the three of us looked over his impressive resumé and decided to hire him as the supervisor instead."
Turner, a lifetime resident of Morehouse Parish, said although the job turned out to more than he'd originally signed on for, he took on the challenge with an open mind and has never been happier.
"When I started, none of the employee's had ever been trained to do this line of work," he said. "I had to teach them everything. Many of them walked off the job during training."
In addition to training the employees and finding ways to prevent overtime, Turner began looking into ways of saving not just the police jury money, but others who were connected to Solid Waste as well.
"I noticed that some of the schools which had been closed down for years were still paying for trash pick-up," Turner said. "This information was buried deep in records and it took me a while to figure it out. No one was doing this on purpose."
According to Sistrunk, Turner resolved several issues that now save the school board money in solid waste pickup.
"When Waste Management had the project, they were charging the school board approximately $100,000 a year," Sistrunk said. "We charge them a little over $50,000 a year."
Turner said it's all in a day's work, literally.
"An average day for me at work is to drive around and observe my drivers," he said. "I'm constantly observing their driving and their performance. If I see that something can be done a better way, I'll have them do it differently. I focus a lot on handicapped people. If they can't pull their trash out to the road, we'll pull it out and put it back. That's not just something I suggest to my drivers. It's mandatory they do it."
Sistrunk said Solid Waste pickup has been so successful, they were not only able to purchase five new trucks last year, but when the next payment for them is due, they'll probably just pay them off.
"If all goes well and the police jury says it's okay, we won't just pay the $187,000 note in August, but go on and pay them off," he said. "Things like this wouldn't have been possible if not for Jimmy Turner. I don't know what we would have done without him."