May 17, 2011

New Hyde County trash collection system will eliminate curbside collection

By CONNIE LEINBACH


The Hyde County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on May 2 to discontinue curbside trash collection in the county as of June 30 and to require all trash to be taken to six convenience sites.  Cost of this system will be placed back on the property tax bills in a plan yet to be decided on.

The commissioners authorized Public Works Director Clint Berry to plan his budget for this new system. Trash dumpsters will be eliminated.
 
 “Since we broke the trash fee out of the property tax bill, it has been a nightmare,” Berry said about the trash turmoil of the last few years.

Berry presented a scenario for the county to levy a tax increase of up to eight cents that will ultimately save property owners money. 

However, the exact amount of that increase will not be known until Berry further refines his budget.

“It may not go to eight cents, but we had to have something to present to the commissioners,” said Hyde County Manager Mazie Smith. “If we can achieve some savings through more recycling, that number will go down.”
 
The final plan will be in place by the time the new county budget is adopted on June 20 and the new fiscal year begins July 1.

“It’s all about saving money and continuing to provide a trash service that we can afford,” Smith continued. “Either we raise rates or cut services. Is this 100 percent equitable for all people? No, but we thought this would be the most equitable with all property owners paying something where before only homeowners were.”

Berry showed how an eight cents tax increase would ultimately be a savings from the current fee-based system.

For example, if a property is valued at $300,000, the owner pays $1,560 in property taxes at the current tax value of 52 cents per $100 of valuation.

If the county eliminates the $35 per month trash fee and raises the property tax by eight cents, to 60 cents per $100, the owner would pay $1,800 per year, or an increase of $240 in taxes.  Under the current system, a homeowner pays $420 per year in trash fees, which is almost $200 more than the proposed tax increase.

In addition, Berry said that property owners will be able to deduct 22 to 32 percent of that increase from their income taxes.

“This plan will put an end to all trash questions in Hyde County,” Berry said. “Everyone will pay less for trash with an eight cent tax increase than they are now, and all property owners will pay their share.”

Some on the island were not too sure about that.

“What about the rental properties and the tourists?” asked Woody Billings and others.
“They’re not going to take their trash to the convenience site.”

But Smith said residents are free to hire someone to pick up their trash and take it to the convenience site.

 The commissioners approved Berry’s plan now because the current trash-hauling contract with Dare County expires June 30 and Berry needs to get the collection sites ready by July 1. 

To have continued the current $1.7 million contract with Dare County, the commissioners would have had to raise trash fees because expenses exceed income by about $95,000, Berry said.

By Berry’s calculations, an eight-cent tax increase will generate $784,000 a year, amply covering the projected $751,326 costs, for a yearly savings to the county of $374,674.

In addition, the county will save about $6,000 in monthly billing and man-hours.

Both he and Smith expect further savings with the encouragement of more recycling, which reduces the amount of trash that has to be hauled to a landfill, further reducing the county’s expense.

Darlene Styron, the commissioner from Ocracoke, hopes the increase will be only be seven cents or less, noting that a tax increase is pending to cover the building of the Ocracoke School gym.  That amount will not be known until all the work is done.

New convenience sites will be built in Scranton and Fairfield for a total of six in the county.

The plan calls for three trash compacters on Ocracoke, the largest site, and all sites will need concrete pads, gravel drives, and fencing.

The cost to beef up the convenience sites will be $365,211, which will be paid for by the tax increase. 

Board of Commissioners chairperson Sharon Spencer noted that convenience sites are mandated by the state.

The commissioners also voted to request bids on hauling services from these convenience sites.

Smith said she will send letters to all property owners detailing this new system.

In a subsequent interview, Berry said the county must continue to be in the trash business because two years ago, the commissioners signed a 31-year contract with the landfill in Bertie County, stipulating that all Hyde County trash will go there. Recyclables can go somewhere else.

It is the only landfill in eastern Carolina and there’s a moratorium on building new ones in the area, Berry said.



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