There was one thing Haywood County commissioners, town officials, private haulers and county employees could all agree upon at last week’s public hearing on the budget: Someone, somewhere has to pay for the skyrocketing costs of trash operations in the county.
The argument, of course, centers around who should be left footing the bill.
Officials are still waiting to see if commissioners will shut down the transfer station in Clyde, where private and town haulers drop off trash that is then delivered by the county to the remote White Oak landfill. Closing the transfer station would save the county $940,000.
Commissioner Mark Swanger said the savings from closing the transfer station are too great to be ignored. Closing the station would prevent trash from being handled twice and would drastically cut down on equipment costs.
“These costs are so great and the potential savings are so great that they must be seriously considered,” said Swanger.
But the shutdown would also mean greater expenses for towns and private haulers who would have to drive much farther to the White Oak landfill. Those higher costs would be passed on to town residents in Canton, Clyde and Waynesville, along with county residents who arrange for private pick-up of trash. Maggie Valley, located close to the landfill, would see no change in their costs.
If the station is closed, Waynesville residents would see their household fee shoot up by $18, while commercial customers in town would see a 35 percent increase. Meanwhile, residents in Clyde would shell out 66 percent more annually.
“All of the savings that the county supposedly is making has got to be made up somewhere,” said Paul White, a private hauler.
At last week’s hearing, town officials joined in on the outcry against closing the station.
“This is not a Town of Waynesville problem. This is not a Town of Clyde Problem,” said Waynesville Town Manager Lee Galloway. “This is a problem for the whole county ... It needs to be fair.”
Galloway said all county residents should share the burden of higher expenses in the solid waste department.
Residents without town pick-up drop their trash at one of 10 convenience centers stationed around the county. The county then foots the bill to haul it the rest of the way to White Oak.
Town residents, however, would be expected to ship their trash all the way to White Oak on their own dime, while the county would continue to fully cover the final leg of the trash journey for residents using convenience centers.
On the other hand, having a transfer station requires significant investment in expensive equipment to compact trash before it heads to the landfill. No such equipment is used at convenience centers.
Galloway said hypothetically, town haulers could begin dumping their trash at a nearby convenience center, or the town could even do away with trash pick-up altogether, sending residents directly to convenience centers instead. Either move would create an even bigger headache for county leaders.
Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick asked Galloway if he’d be in favor of a fee for towns to keep the transfer station open instead. Galloway countered by asking if the county would also charge those who use the convenience centers an extra fee.
“It’s the same difference,” Galloway said.
At the very least, Galloway said he hopes the county will give towns enough time to prepare for the changes. Earlier, the county said it might close the transfer station this fall. Now, the county estimates it will take at least until summer 2011 to prepare for the shutdown.
Commissioner Bill Upton said he’s thought about the issue as much as any issue he’s ever thought about, yet he was still struggling to find a solution.
“We’re in a no-win situation,” said Upton, adding that it was obvious the speakers wanted to keep everything the same. “I’ve heard that over and over again, but that’s still not helping the county solve our situation.”