County Approves Cost-Saving Measures to Offset Solid Waste Losses

SNOW HILL- While a number of options were discussed, the Worcester County Commissioners this week decided to table the debate over yard waste disposal at tipping stations until this fall, but did unanimously pass 11 other money-saving policies suggested by Enterprise Fund Controller Jennifer Savage, all meant to combat the high operating costs of the County’s Solid Waste Division.

“We’re trying to serve the homeowner,” said Savage.

Solid waste has long been an unprofitable entity for Worcester. While the changes proposed, including raising the cost of a homeowner tipping station dumping permit to $60 and stricter permit enforcement, won’t completely offset the department’s costs entirely, they will go towards moving it out of the red. However, Savage was unable to convince the commissioners that one cost saving measure would be worth any negative side effects it might cause.

Savage’s proposal outlines that all yard waste such as leaves or brush must only be dumped at the central landfill in Newark. The commissioners thought the restriction was too severe. Instead of forcing residents living in the northern-most and southern-most parts of the county to make the trip to Newark anytime they do yard work, the commission asked for exceptions.

Commissioner Virgil Shockley suggested there be a more expensive permit above the standard $60 that would allow owners to deposit yard waste at the convenient transfer stations.

“That is a viable option,” admitted Savage.

However, she noted that some unethical professional landscapers might take advantage of that pass and pretend that the brush they collect for their business all came from their residence.

“They lie to you,” she asserted.

Savage made a counter-suggestion. Instead of a more expensive pass, issue coupons with each permit that would be good for one load of yard waste. She reasoned that the average homeowner only went through two major yard clean-ups a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. Thus, giving each permit holder two passes to dump yard waste at a tipping station should satisfy their needs without allowing landscapers to exploit the system. She added that two was just a number she estimated, and that the commission could issue more or less as they pleased.

Public Works Director John Tustin mentioned that Solid Waste could also sell more coupons beyond those originally issued if the commission so chose. While the idea seemed appealing, there was still a lot of debate over the situation.

“We’re kind of all over the place here,” said Chief Administrative Officer Gerald Mason.

Mason recommended that the commission approve all of the other changes except yard waste. They could then revisit the issue this fall after having time to further explore alternatives. His suggestion was unanimously approved.