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Speakers complain over $48 trash disposal fee

Four county residents voiced their opposition to the county imposing a $48 annual fee for trash disposal on their personal property tax bills this fall.

The women spoke during a public hearing held by the new Halifax County Solid Waste Disposal Authority Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Mary Bethune office complex in Halifax.

Supervisors unanimously approved the new solid waste disposal authority as an entity during its meeting later that evening after members of the authority heard objections from Josephine Scearce, Cheryl Watts, Jane Davis and Laura Crowe concerning having to pay the $4 per month solid waste disposal fee.

The $48 fee will go into effect for the current fiscal year, but will cover only a portion of the county’s operating expense at the transfer station and for transporting trash to the regional landfill in Mecklenburg County, according to County Administrator Jim Halasz.

“The fee does not cover the cost of refuse pick-up services provided by the towns in the county, nor does it cover the cost of green box and collection center services,” he added.

Scearce told supervisors she already paid a $3 fee on her Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative bill each month that she had been told was for maintenance of the green boxes in the county.

“When you’re on a fixed income, you don’t have any money, and you have to do without. We are being taxed to death,” the Halifax resident said.

Watts, another Halifax resident, urged supervisors to consider making the fee more equitable explaining a household of one, such as hers, pays the same $48 that a household of four to six people pays for trash disposal.

Watts, who recycles most of her trash, told authority board members she seldom puts more than one bag of trash a week in the green boxes.

Concluding her remarks, Watts said, “I would hope that in the future in setting this fee, you might consider the size of the households using this service.”

Davis of Scottsburg also expressed concern about a $3 utility fee she already pays on her Dominion Power bill each month that she thought covered the costs of green box operations.

“There’s no end to it. I live on a fixed income, and I can’t afford it. My insurance just went up $33, and I can’t hardly afford to buy my medicine now,” Davis told authority members.

Crowe, also a resident of Scottsburg, said she too lived on a fixed income and did not want to see a $48 fee added to her tax bill.

Crowe explained her insurance went up $144 per month which is taking away from her food budget.

“I’d rather see a family have to pay $5. I just can’t see us paying $48,” she said.

She complained that no jobs can be found in the county and children have nothing to do.

ED-4 Supervisor Doug Bowman who also sits on the solid waste authority offered the motion to implement the $48 trash fee told those attending the meeting why the county was being forced to charge a fee for trash disposal.

After the Department of Environmental Quality closed the Bethel landfill, Bowman said the county entered into an arrangement with the Town of South that was advantageous with the town accepting the county’s trash at its landfill on Hamilton Boulevard.

When the state mandated the landfill could not operate after the end of December 2007, Bowman said the county joined with Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties to dispose of trash in the regional landfill near Boydton in Mecklenburg County.

“At the end of the day, we went from a no cost situation (at the South Boston landfill) to having a $1.3 million cost for trash disposal,” he said.

That $1.3 million cost is the reason Bowman said the county is being forced to implement the $48 annual trash fee explaining it’s a core requirement of local government to “deal with solid waste.”

 “The reality is the transfer station costs money to operate, and Halifax County is the biggest user of the landfill (in Mecklenburg County), and we have to have a way to recover those costs,” he said. “That’s really which this board is looking for ways to generate revenue other than raising real estate taxes.”

After hearing comments from the public and authority members, the authority officially adopted a resolution implementing the $48 annual trash disposal fee which does not cover cost of refuse pick-up services provided in the two towns or the county.

It also does not cover collection of trash from green boxes and other collection center services provided.

The fee will be applied to personal property bills after Oct. 1, although the fee will fund operations from July 1 through June 30, 2013. Bills will be sent out in early October, and the payment deadline is Dec. 5.

Each household will be required to pay the $48 fee.

“These fees are going to do nothing but escalate. We’ve got to get more creative with our recycling,” said ED-1 Supervisor J. T. Davis who also serves as an authority member.

Chairman West concluded, “We didn’t have any choice.”

No one spoke at a second public hearing pertaining to whether private provided trash disposal service is available to county residents.

According to Halasz, state code prohibits an authority from collecting and disposing of residential trash until a determination is made that private services are not generally available in the service area.

“While it is a generally held belief such service is not available in Halifax County, state code does require the Solid Waste Disposal Authority Board to satisfy this condition before the authority may begin to operate such a service,” he added.

Following that public hearing, the authority adopted a resolution stating the authority will not displace any private companies engaged in the provision of refuse collection and disposal.

The board also adopted an agreement with the county regarding collection and disposal of residential solid waste.

The agreement provides for the authority to provide services at the transfer station and to transport trash from the transfer station to the regional landfill.

It also provides for the authority to contract with the county to provide these operational services and the authority to pay the county for the services rendered.

In all other cases, the current green box and collection center services will continue to be provided by the county and are not subject to the agreement.

At last month’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, supervisors created the new separate agency under state code to provide for the disposal of solid waste within the county.

The authority contracts with the county for the actual day-to-day operations of disposal services including pickup from the convenience sites and green boxes, operation and maintenance of the transfer station and transport of waste to the regional landfill, according to Halasz.

Supervisor Chairman Tom West serves as authority chairman and Supervisor Vice Chairman W. Bryant Claiborne serves as vice chairman of the authority. 

Earlier, the authority elected the county administrator as executive director, treasurer and secretary of the authority.