SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners approved a $6 million solid waste budget this week but appear to be committed to making changes to address the enterprise fund’s growing costs.
On Tuesday the commissioners voted 6-1 to approve a $6,021,661 budget for the county’s solid waste enterprise fund. Commissioner Jim Bunting, who voted against the budget, said rising solid waste costs had to be addressed.
“I’ve been here eight years,” he said. “We’ve been kicking this can down the road eight years.”
The budget approved Tuesday maintains tipping fees and leaves the cost of homeowner convenience center permits at $100 for the first two vehicles. The “Pay-As-You-Throw” system also remains in place, so homeowners can pay $1 a bag to dispose of 33-gallon trash bags at the homeowner convenience centers.
Bunting was quick to ask why fees weren’t being increased to combat the operation’s growing costs.
“When we’ve raised fees we’ve also noticed we’re losing business,” said Jessica Wilson, enterprise fund controller.
Bunting said that the county was spending roughly $1.6 million to balance the solid waste enterprise fund’s budget. A $1,033,339 transfer from the general fund is used to cover the costs of the county’s recycling program and $664,984 is transferred to cover the cost of the homeowner convenience centers.
“We’ve got to do something,” he said.
While he expressed interest in making immediate changes to the proposed budget, Chief Administrative Officer Harold Higgins said he thought changes should be a fiscal year 2020 consideration.
“I think we’re not being fiscally responsible with this budget,” Bunting maintained.
Commissioner Joe Mitrecic agreed that while he and his peers had discussed the issue in recent years, they’d not made any changes. He said a private trash company could probably pick up the trash of the county’s roughly 4,500 homeowner convenience center permit holders for less than the county was paying.
“We just can’t increase the revenue we’re going to have to look at cutting the cost,” he said. “The landfill and our solid waste service need to be looked at comprehensively.”
Commissioner Bud Church said he’d been receiving emails from constituents who didn’t want to see the landfill closed. He said that if the convenience centers closed he expected to see more trash along roads.
“If we decide to do that, we’re going to have a major problem,” he said.
Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw said, “I’ve been flooded with emails, letters and phone calls,” opposed as well.
The commissioners voted 6-1 to approve the budget as proposed.