2005-08-04 / Front Page

Crowd gathers to discuss mandatory garbage pick-up

A crowd of over 150 Lincoln County residents attended a public hearing to express their views and concerns

about mandatory garbage pick-up in the unincorporated areas of the county. The hearing took place

Monday, August 1, in the courtroom at the Lincoln County Courthouse.

A crowd of over 150 Lincoln County residents attended a public hearing to express their views and concerns about mandatory garbage pick-up in the unincorporated areas of the county. The hearing took place Monday, August 1, in the courtroom at the Lincoln County Courthouse. Over 150 people gathered at the Lincoln County Courthouse Monday, August 1, to express their views and concerns about mandatory garbage pick-up in the unincorporated areas of the county.

At the June 16 meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, the commission authorized Chairman Walker Norman to develop an RFP (Request for Proposal) to submit to garbage collection companies for county-wide garbage pick-up. It has been proposed that a collection fee be added to tax bills to pay for the service.

At the outset of the meeting, Chairman Norman said, “About 1,100 households out of 4,100 are getting their garbage picked up or have somewhere to put it — some are using the transfer station. This means that 75 percent of the households in the county do not have anywhere to put their garbage — at least we don’t know what they’re doing with it.”

In accordance with the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan, the county is required by law to know how much garbage is generated by county residents and where it is being disposed of. “We had to sign a statement saying we are following the solid waste management plan, but we’re not,” said Norman.

He went on to say, “Sitting in these chairs, we have to make decisions sometimes that are not easy. We’re not doing this because we want to but because we have a serious problem in Lincoln County. Garbage doesn’t just disappear. It is a complex problem, with no easy answers. Nevertheless, it has to be addressed. We have voluntary garbage disposal in the county today, and it’s not working.

“Something has to be done to see that Lincoln County maintains its beauty,” he continued. “By implementing county-wide garbage pickup, we are trying to ensure the purity of the lakes, streams, and land. We want to do what’s best for the majority of our citizens.”

At the present time, the cost to the taxpayer of county-wide trash pickup is not known because the project has yet to be put out for bids. However, the RFP does contain a price cap in the proposed seven-year contract.

It states that there will be no rate increase for the first 20 months, and rate increases cannot exceed three percent a year over the balance of the remaining five years.

“We want to enter into a seven-year contract to keep the monthly cost as low as possible,” Norman explained. “The shorter the contract, the higher the cost due to depreciation.”

Regarding the issue of local residents paying for the garbage service annually instead of monthly or quarterly, the chairman said, “If we were to bill people on a monthly or quarterly basis, we would have to hire somebody to handle this. With stamps costing 37 cents, we felt it was more economical to attach this fee to the tax bills.”

He added, “Hopefully, people who subscribe to private garbage collection companies today will pay less under the new program than they do now.”

Commenting on the dumpsters that used to dot the county, Chairman Norman said, “There are 159 counties in Georgia, and very few of them have dumpsters. Moreover, those that do are trying to get rid of them. Dumpsters are as antiquated as outdoor toilets. They’re not coming back.”

It was mentioned that burning garbage without a permit and hauling garbage to the trash bins in the city or the dumpsters in Wilkes County are all illegal.

Norman then pointed out that Wilkes County spends between $600,000 and $700,000 in tax monies to collect and dispose of its garbage; whereas, Lincoln County only spends $60,000, which is what it costs to operate the transfer station.

In other items of information, the chairman explained that only residences with electrical meters will be billed for garbage pick-up service. “Those who are paying for dumpsters can apply for an exemption from the pick-up fee. Our intent is to see that garbage is picked up, not to charge people for everything we can.”

Following Chairman Norman’s comments, 22 concerned citizens addressed the commission; an overwhelming majority of them were not in favor of mandatory county-wide garbage pick-up. In fact, Jim Powell presented the commission with petitions containing the signatures of over 500 people in opposition to the garbage pick-up plan.

One of the major issues raised at the hearing dealt with the possibility of the county offering seasonal rates for those who live in the county on a part-time basis.

According to Tom Morris, “I am a part-time resident of the county — I spend about 45 days a year here. There needs to be a reduced fee or no fee for part-time residents. If I’m not going to use the service, why should I pay for it? There needs to be some way to make this voluntary.”

Several of the seasonal residents who spoke at the meeting indicated that they disposed of their garbage by taking it home.

Chairman Norman indicated that he agreed with Morris, but he did not know how to solve the problem. Earlier in the meeting, the chairman said the county had considered offering a seasonal rate but “everything came back to how we would enforce it.

“We really have no way of knowing who lives here part time; therefore, every resident will have to pay the same fee. Also, I feel that anyone with a second home in Lincoln County can pay $180 to $190 a year for garbage pick-up.”

Norman went on to add that a lower rate for seasonal residents would mean a higher rate for full-time residents.

Another major issue for those present had to do with the ability of those on fixed incomes to pay for garbage pick-up service.

According to Al Bean, “People who are retired on a fixed income will have to choose between paying for garbage pick-up and buying food and medicine. I think people should have a choice — they can pay for garbage pick-up service or they can use the transfer station.”

He indicated that there has to be a better solution to this problem — one that will not burden county residents. He then suggested that the county open two more transfer stations at a cost of about $200,000 a year.

In further remarks, Bean said, “Sixty-two percent of the people in the northern end of the county are part-time residents. I know they take their garbage home with them. To my knowledge, there has been no illegal dumping.”

In response to Bean’s concern about people on fixed incomes, Chairman Norman said, “I am conscious of this fact. However, there are certain things people have to do even if they’re on fixed incomes.”

Bill Luking stated, “Why should the elderly and part-time residents be made to participate in this program when businesses (i.e. those people with dumpsters) are exempt? If you want this, put them in the pie with the rest of us. All for one and one for all — no exceptions. The only way I can go with this is for everyone to pay the price and reap the benefits.”

Luking received a round of applause.

The failure of the transfer station to recycle garbage also came under fire during the meeting.

“We have been using the transfer station since it was opened to dispose of our garbage and those items we were told would be recycled,” stated Glenda Wells. “A few weeks ago we were informed that everything we took to the transfer station was combined with the garbage that went into the landfill.

“If this information is true, my hope is that we don’t have to depend on the same people who are making decisions for the exchange station to make the decision about our garbage pick-up. I am very much against this plan to force garbage pick-up on every household in Lincoln County. As citizens, a decision such as this should be made by us in the voting booth.”

Wells went on to say she would be willing to pay to implement a recycling program in the county. “I am told there are some recycling plans that are paying for themselves.”

In closing, she said if the commissioners go forward with their mandatory garbage pick-up initiative, “my sincere prayer is that the citizens make a big change in commission personnel at the next election.”

Wells was given a round of applause for her remarks.

In other observations concerning the transfer station, Elgin Durham said, “I take my garbage to the transfer station once a month. I hope it’s not being dumped all together after I’ve spent a whole month separating it.”

Chairman Norman said it is his understanding that what Wells had been told about the transfer station is true.

Anger and feelings of betrayal were expressed by those present in response to the chairman’s comment.

Norman said, “I apologize for the transfer station. I’m appalled at us myself. It’s been a long, long time since much recycling was done at the transfer station. The amount of recyclables that are taken out there and getting them to where there need to go just hasn’t worked out. We need more tonnage to run an effective recycling program. Still, it’s a place where we let our guard down. I will personally check into this so we can make decisions regarding the recycling situation.”

He pointed out that the county will be making changes at the transfer station. “We will expand the list of items that can be taken to the transfer station to include batteries, tires, oil, some construction debris, etc. ‘White items’ are already accepted.”

State law requires counties to defantry crease the amount of garbage placed in landfills by 25 percent over the next 10 years.

Although Dave Heinfeldt presented a list of concerns about the RFP to the commission, he said, “I believe the program will benefit the county primarily from an environmental standpoint.”

One of the concerns he raised involved the contractor’s right to charge the customer for the theft of a trash receptacle. “The contract requires the customer to place the cart on or near a public right of way. I’m concerned about the customer being responsible for theft on a public rightof way when the county is responsible for public protection. I think this needs to be removed from the RFP.”

Also speaking from the floor was Bill Parker, who said, “I feel the county has a problem that will have to be addressed sooner or later. I don’t have the answer. I hope you will come up with one. It appears you are working on it.”

He received a round of applause.

In his comments, Al Gray stated, “Where is the sense of personal responsibility?

People seem to be doing a good job of taking care of their garbage. This is something people don’t want. I urge the board to vote ‘no’ on this.”

“I thought we were here to discuss whether or not we will have countywide garbage pick-up, but it is a fait accompli (an accomplished fact),” said Byron Baldwin. “I feel betrayed. I am very much opposed to this effort.

I represent six homes — none of us are happy. We voters plan to let our disgust be known.”

Another citizen addressing the commission was Mark Swanson, who said it “seems as if the tail is wagging the dog. Seventy people have complained about garbage pickup in the county. On the other hand, the 500 people who signed those petitions don’t want it, and 150 people here don’t want it. I haven’t heard of any study saying there is a need for this program.

“Let’s find out what the need is in this county and what the people want,” he continued. “You’re rushing this — there are virtually no specifics for the carts in the RFP. We need to be specific because we have to pay for them. We need to spend more time on this in order to get answers to these questions.”

In response to the idea that the county is rushing the bidding process, Chairman Norman said, “It seems quick in some ways, but it’s not so quick to those who don’t have anybody to pick up their garbage.”

Other concerns raised at the public hearing included:

It was noted that the RFP requires the company to use new trucks and provide new 95-gallon trash receptacles to county residents. Eliminating this requirement could reduce the cost.

Chairman Norman indicated he did not know how that requirement got in the RFP. “I only know we wanted a decent truck — one we could depend on.”

Some citizens wondered about the affect garbage trucks would have on private roads and who would pay to repair them.

“We are concerned about this as well,” said Chairman Norman.

Meg Burg, planning and zoning director for the county, said, “Due to road restrictions, boat clubs and manufactured home parks will have dumpsters instead of the 95-gallon trash receptacles. However, each resident will be charged for garbage pick-up like anyone else.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Chairman Norman thanked everyone for their comments. “Valid points were made. We will review the tape and try to pick up some other suggestions and see what can be done. We will use the information we’ve received here to revise the RFP.”

The commission plans to vote on the RFP at its regular monthly meeting set for Thursday, August 11, at 5 p.m. in the courtroom at the Lincoln County Courthouse.

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