<p>This graph from&nbsp;a presentation about the waste management audit to City Council on April 12 shows the average age of the city's 52 garbage trucks.</p>

An internal audit of the Consolidated Government of Columbus, Ga., refuse fleet shows that 55 of the agency's 83 refuse trucks exceed their useful life due to reduced purchases during the recession. Due to the aging fleet, annual major repair costs have increased from $600,000 to a projected $2 million for FY-2016.

The city owns 52 garbage trucks, 17 recycle trucks, and 14 grab-all trucks. The auditor determined most of the useful trucks have a useful life of seven years, with the exception of one exclusive recycle collection truck with a life of up to 10 years. Prior to 2008, the city purchased about 6 trucks per year, but since that time, has purchased one truck annually — and eight in one year with the opening of a new recycle center. The single-vehicle annual purchases were purchased only when another truck failed.

The audit recommended the city either purchase new trucks or lease them, leaning toward the leasing idea. “Using a lease plan, costs are reasonably consistent from one year to the next and fees are simpler and more accurately calculated,” the auditor wrote. The city expects a new vehicle to cost $236,000 to purchase or $36,000 per year to lease.

After reviewing repair costs, downtime, and other factors in its current fleet, the audit recommended future refuse truck purchases or leases be for Cummins engines, Allison transmissions, Heil bodies, Crane Carrier cabs.

Additionally, the audit stated that garbage collection fees need to be re-evaluated and increased every year to cover costs. According to the Ledge-Enquirer, a $5 monthly increase in the city garbage fee and savings from reduced maintenance and repairs would be almost enough to fund the replacements. The mayor, however, said she would not propose such a significant fee increase — currently, it is $15 per month.