After over a half-century of operation, a longtime community service provider has changed hands.

Green Environmental Services (GES), a solid waste disposal company based in southeast Kansas, has finalized their purchase of Ottawa Sanitation, 211 W. Wilson St., Ottawa. The garbage company was founded by Leo Ferguson in 1956, and was most recently co-owned by Claud Ferguson and John Taylor.

The sale of the historic company was finalized in mid-July, and the ownership transition is ongoing, GES officials said.

“[The transition] is still happening,” said John Hafner, GES majority-owner. “John and Claud are still there — they’re helping us train new drivers on routes, and things like that. We’re been hiring drivers, office and clerical positions. We’ve already hired an additional five or six people.”

The company will continue to do business as Ottawa Sanitation, Hefner said, adding the company is aiming for a smooth transition.

“Everything we do should be an improvement to safety, the employees, the customers, and the community we serve,” Hefner said. “We’ll update the equipment, the systems, and try to get things a little more streamlined.”

Founded 10 years ago in southeast Kansas, GES has slowly expanded northward in eastern Kansas, along with growing to service communities in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

“Our main office is in Erie, Kansas,” Hefner explained. “We’ve been in Erie for 10 years, so we pick up a lot of those smaller communities. We already picked up all the way to Garnett — we pick up the Wolf Creek nuclear plant — we were already in the area, and so we just kind of bumped up to [Ottawa].”

The sale gave the former owners a chance at retirement, a common strategy in the waste management industry, according to Hefner.

“It was just a good fit for us, and it helped them retire,” he said. “It was a good deal for them, and a good deal for us.”

Hefner also emphasised GES’s commitment to the community.

“Our focus is on service and safety, and we won’t be beat on that,” he said. “We’ve made commitments to the Onward Ottawa program — some long term commitments. We’ve been meeting with our big customers to explain our program. We’re going to be there for a long time.”

Local management also comprises GES’s community commitment, Hefner said. Heading up GES operations in the region will be Brandon Spencer, a native Kansan and part-owner in the company.

“He’s a got a vested interest in making sure the company does well, and performs well, and is safe,” Hefner said, adding GES will focus on creating small-business service.

“We’re guys that have been doing [waste disposal] a long time, and we’re pretty good at it,” Hefner said. “But we are small — we bank at local banks, we buy stuff local. We all used to work for big companies, but that’s not what we want. We’re trying to concentrate on customer service, and safety is our number one.”