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Research shows availabilty of alternatives to local monopolies

By Erica Miller
On September 30, 2009

Barker Brothers Waste, Harper's Wrecker Service, Martin Rentals, Charter Cable: In the minds of many students, these local companies are perceived to be the only businesses in the area who provide their specific services.However, individual research shows a bigger picture of what's available to local residents and the prices charged for various services.

First, let's consider Martin's new business regulation. Initially, a business license must be obtained (city license and county license) in order to open a new business in Martin. The Martin Municipal Zoning Ordinance declares that every business must follow the criteria specific to that particular zone (whether it be B1, B2, or B3).

"The only reason a business license would be denied is on the basis that the business did not follow the regulations of the [Martin Municipal] Zoning Ordinance," said Martin City Clerk Brenda Harvey. With these rules applying the same to every business, it's clear that the city of Martin does not dismiss companies similar in service to the well-known companies mentioned above.

Barker Brothers Waste Management Company started in 1966 and operates in at least seven counties in this area. Barker Brothers is Weakley County's standard 10-year contractual waste management company and is about eight years into the contract. So why did Weakley County choose Barker Brothers for waste service? The answer lies in negotiations at the end of each contract. Waste service goes up for bidding, and all waste companies that care to bid are able to do so.

"No company ever bids except for Barker Brothers," said Shawn Francisco, the Weakley County director of finance.

This does not mean that every county resident must use Barker Brothers' services, though most city residents are automatically billed for garbage service along with water, gas and sewer services. Those who live outside the city limits pay separately for garbage service and for city water if it's available.

Other options for waste service do exist. While it is true that the Martin landfill accepts only construction material and yard waste, the Weakley County Waste Management and Convenience Center, located in Dresden, has been open for 15 years. Hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to noon Thursday through Saturday. Household bagged waste is $1 per bag or $15 per pickup load.

Depending on how much trash you produce, you should consider whether Barker Brothers' monthly fee or the per-bag fee is more economical. For more information about the Weakley County Waste Management and Convenience Center, call 731-364-6798 during the center's operating hours.

Harper's Wrecker Service is listed as the only towing service in town. However, several wrecker services in nearby areas were contacted to compare costs and services. A wrecker service in Henry County said it would deliver to anywhere in Weakley County for $65, while another said it charges a flat rate of $2 per mile. A South Fulton wrecker service said its charge was $3.50 per mile, one way, with a $25 hookup fee. A wrecker service in Union City quoted $75. Harper's said it charges $50 to tow to South Fulton and $40 to tow anywhere within the city limits of Martin, with a $35 hookup fee. Your best rate seems to depend on where, exactly, you live in relation to Martin.

Plus, we all do have to live somewhere, and when looking to rent a place, Martin Rentals LLC is often referred to as the primary company in town that serves college students. While Martin Rentals manages over 500 properties, the company doesn't actually own them. They manage properties for independent sources that prefer a company represent them.

The options for renting, however, are actually numerous. For example, Donaldson Brothers Rentals has as many as 130 properties, which are all owned and managed locally by Ralph and Roger Donaldson. Other rental sources include Century 21 Real Estate, Martin Realty, and a list of independent property owners you can get (free) at Fuller Partners Real Estate. Additionally, properties are listed each week in the Weakley County Press and the Dresden Enterprise.

The same principle applies when considering Internet service. While Charter Cable is often perceived to be the only option available, several options actually exist: Ken-Tenn Wireless, Frontier Net and Verizon Wireless, all of which offer Internet service at comparable rates.

Like any other renter or homeowner, research your options for all the basic services you need, not just the ones listed here. And don't assume that the most prominent companies in town are the only ones who provide a specific service, or provide the best cost, though you may find they really are your best bet. Do your homework on the entire local market -- you may discover there's more bargains out there than you thought.

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