Commissioners Divided Over Propose Waste Changes

SNOW HILL — Possible changes to transfer station rules split the Worcester County Commission Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a tough transition,” admitted county Enterprise Fund Comptroller Jennifer Savage.

Savage outlined 12 policy changes to solid waste services in Worcester, most of which had already been discussed with the commission. However, one of the 12 alterations caught the commissioners by surprise and divided the usually unanimous group.

The controversial item was a new rule disallowing any yard waste from transfer stations. At previous meetings, the commission had advocated a “bag or bundle” policy, where any refuse that a person with a dumping permit can fit into a trash bag or small, easily carried bundle can be deposited at a county transfer station. However, in the proposal Savage presented, all yard waste would need to be taken to the central landfill.

“The bag and bundle thing is out of the picture?” asked Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw.

He strongly questioned how logical it was to force anyone with a bag or two of leaves to drive all the way to Newark to dump them.

“That doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Commission President Bud Church agreed.

“We can’t accommodate [yard waste]?” he asked Savage.

Savage replied that it was another cost on the already financially besieged solid waste department. Chief Administrative Officer Gerald reinforced Savage, informing the commissioners that the landfill is currently running at a loss.

“We’re operating in the red,” he said.

Church still felt that other options had to be considered.

“I think we’ll be defeating a purpose,” he said.

His main concern was that people would simply dump yard waste along the road rather than make the trip all the way to the landfill.

“The other option you have is to burn it [yard waste],” said Church, who added that could be dangerous given how dry the county has been this year.

Commissioner Jim Purnell was especially passionate about allowing yard waste at tipping stations. He told the rest of the council that he’s already had about 25 phone calls on the issue and agrees with Church that people might start tossing yard waste on the street instead of making a long trip.

Savage said she understood the concern, but once again highlighted the struggling solid waste finances.

“People have got to start thinking differently about this,” she told the commission, adding that if yard waste was allowed, the cost of permits for residents wishing to use transfer stations might need to rise as high as $100.

She noted that there are other options for yard waste disposal in the county, including starting compost heaps.

Some of the commission agreed.

“We have to get in control of the costs … we need to at least give this a chance,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs.

“Change is different but sometimes good,” agreed Commissioner Louise Gulyas.

Church asked Savage to look into other options regarding yard waste removal before bringing the proposal back June 21 for a vote.