BUCKINGHAM – After several months of reviewing options for handling the county's solid waste, the board of supervisors, with a four-to-three vote during its January 14 meeting, put the brakes on any changes for now.
Following an overview of the options and a public hearing, Supervisor Bill Talbert moved “to leave it as it is for now.”
With a second from Supervisor Joe Chambers, the motion drew support from Chairman Monroe Snoddy, Vice Chairman Danny Allen, and Supervisors Chambers and Talbert. Supervisors Donnie Bryan, John Staton, and Cassandra Stish cast the opposing votes.
Discussions concerning the county's handling of its solid waste began this summer during the board's work sessions to prioritize issues facing the county.
Prior to the public hearing on Monday night, Karl Carter provided an overview of the information he presented to the board in November.
He began with Option 1, which he said would keep things as they are with the county retaining ownership of its trucks and dumpsters. With that option, he noted that they would not lose the full-time positions currently held by the drivers of the garbage trucks.
The cons to keeping things the same, explained Carter, include being at the mercy of the landfill in Prince Edward. “As their expenses rise, our rates will go up as well. And the waste is going into the ground rather than being recycled,” he offered.
He added that other cons are the purchase and maintenance of equipment, including trucks and dumpsters, along with expenses such as fuel costs, repairs, and insurance.
With Option 1A, Carter said the county would continue with business as usual with the exception of closing the four unfenced satellite sites. By closing those sites, the county would have a reduction in the tonnage of its solid waste, which would equate to cost savings, he explained. However, he added that closing the satellite sites would be an inconvenience for residents who use them.
Option 2, shared Carter, focuses on the one response received to a request for proposal, RFP, to handle the county's solid waste.
He explained that Van der Linde Recycling, at Zion Crossroads, proposed to do so for $588,000 a year.
“The pros to that is the county would not have capital expenditures. Van der Linde would provide all of the equipment,” stated Carter. Continuing, he offered, “It is environmentally-friendly as all the waste is recycled and nothing is put into the ground.”
Carter said the cons include that the county would be at the mercy of Van der Linde if the company raised its rates. “There would be some loss of full-time positions, which would be our drivers,” he added.
Additionally, Carter explained that the satellite sites would have to be closed because Van der Linde would not accept waste from unmanned sites.
Continuing with the cons, Carter said if the county should want to reinstate its solid waste operation, it would have to purchase all new equipment.
Option 3, explained Carter, calls for the county to haul its solid waste to Van der Linde Recycling. With that option, the county would retain ownership of its trucks and dumpsters
The pros for Option 3 include recycling all the county's solid waste rather than placing it in the ground, shared Carter. Moreover, he said no full-time positions would be lost and any possible rate increases from Van der Linde would only be on tonnage.
He described closing of the satellite sites as both a pro and a con. The pro, said Carter would be less tonnage; and, the con would be the inconvenience factor.
Another con, noted Carter, is the increase of three dollars per ton for recycling the waste. The landfill currently charges $44 per ton and Van der Linde would charge $47 per ton.
“The county would still have capital expenditures and maintenance expenses because we would be hauling our stuff to Van der Linde,” he added.
Carter advised that since his November presentation, they have talked about what he referenced as Option 3A, which includes the county hauling some of the trash to the landfill and some to Van der Linde, depending on the proximity of the sites to the landfill or recycling facility.
County Administrator Rebecca Carter interjected that if the board did not want to make a complete change at this time, the county would realize some savings in mileage and would be recycling approximately 65 percent of the county's waste.
“So for those of you who want to go green and recycle, that is an option of trying to work toward that goal,” she shared.
However, she emphasized that Van der Linde would not accept any solid waste from unmanned sites in an effort to ensure that chemicals and other unauthorized waste are not brought to its facility.
Karl Carter explained that with Option 3A, trash from Arvonia, Dillwyn, and Route 655 would go to Van der Linde; and trash from Route 600 and Route 56 sites would go to Farmville.
“When we first started looking into this, we thought surely there would be a significant cost savings by not having to operate our trucks-the fuel, insurance,” stated the county administrator. “But actually there was a $40,000 increase and that is because we would have to man all of the sites all of the time.”
Sammy Smith, District 5, was first to the podium. Addressing concerns about the inconvenience to residents by closing the unmanned sites, he shared, “From my driveway to Duck's (Route 56), where I dump my trash is 11 miles, 22 miles roundtrip. It's probably as far as anybody in the county has to go.” However, he stressed, “I am all for going green all throughout the county.”
Smith said he was sure if the county went completely with Van der Linde that in the future the capital gain would pay for it.
Crystal Martin, reiterating comments she made in November about recycling, stated, “Burying our trash is not the answer.”
Noting the “that's the way we've always done it kind of mentality,” she shared, “I would hope that the board would look to the future of Buckingham County not for just your own generation but for my generation, for our children and grandchildren.”
Focusing on the unfenced satellite sites, the District 7 resident stated, “There are people dumping in our county from all over the place.”
Reiterating her point on the need to recycle, she challenged the board to bury their plastic water bottles in their back yard. “In 50 years, write it in your wills and tell your grandchild to dig them up because they are still going to be there and it's going to be there 50 years after that,” she stated. “We have to do something.”
Referencing the ongoing monitoring by EPA of the Buckingham County Landfill, off Route 640, which was closed and declared a superfund site several decades ago, Martin stated, “We can change all that where our children and grandchildren don't have to worry about that because we are recycling. We are doing the right thing for the environment and being progressive going forward.”
Quinn Robinson, a District 4 resident, encouraged the board to go with Option 2-contracting with Van der Linde to handle the county's solid waste operation. He said by doing so, the board would be taking the comprehensive approach to trash and litter that the county needs.
Robinson said the savings in capital expenditures would accommodate placing a transfer site in each district. “There shouldn't be a penalty for people because they live in a certain area,” he said.
He offered, “I think there is the possibility of an affiliation with the other counties so that they could have a comprehensive negotiation over rates and terms with Van der Linde. It would make a lot of sense for all the counties in this region to stay together on working with this.”
Robinson concluded, “I hope you take the comprehensive approach.”
Former District 1 supervisor Bobby Jones said that regardless of the decision they were talking “big money.”
“How can you intelligently pass something in our county and you don't know what it is going to cost,” said Jones. “I ask you, in fact I beg you, put this off until you come up with some figures and then have another public hearing so that we all know what we are looking at.”
Thomas Hutcherson, District 6, requested that supervisors not consider any option that would result in “getting rid of anybody.” He added, “Everybody who has a job needs a job.”
He said that if the board had to make a decision at this time he would like to see them go with Option 3A and haul the trash to Zion Crossroads and Prince Edward.
Referencing the comments made by Jones, Hutcherson shared that he, too, would like to see more time taken to think about the decision.
He added that when the board decided to place monitors at the sites, it was one of the best decisions made.
“The sites that we attend now are in beautiful shape compared to what they used to be years ago. I admire what you are doing. Keep up the good work,” stated Hutcherson.
After Snoddy closed the hearing, Supervisor Talbert immediately led with his motion “to leave it as it is for now.”
Talbert, noting that the satellite site at Bates Market is only about eight miles from the landfill in Prince Edward, shared that he was working on something regarding the possibility of a 50-year lease on some property for a fenced site in his area.
He added that maybe they could work something out with the sheriff's department regarding ticketing those who are illegally using the satellite sites.
“First thing you've got to do is to fine somebody $1,000 and when that gets around nobody else is going to dump their trash in there,” stated Talbert.
Continuing, he offered, “I think Hut was right, let's give it a little bit more time. I'd like to see it stay just like it is. I'm working on some things and I know Becky and Karl are working on things.”
After a second from Chambers, Supervisor Bryan questioned how much more time it would take. He stated, “We have wanted to close the unmanned sites. I believe it is in the comp plan to close them.” He added that the landowner of the satellite site on Route 617 has indicated that she no longer wants it on her property.
Supervisor Stish offered, “Mr. Talbert, the proposal you are making is exactly the opposite of a comprehensive solution.”
Referencing the “piece meal approach” suggested by Talbert when he said he was working on something in his area, Stish said she would much rather see the utilities committee continue its work on the issue and bring back a “more specific financial forecast” of the options. Adding that she knew some of the numbers would be difficult to obtain, Stish said she would like to see the cost of the trucks and the projected cost of the trucks in five years along with the potential savings.
“Let's try to indicate the offset so people know what they are investing in,” stated Stish. “It becomes an investment in recycling, in our future, so at least we should understand how much it costs.”
She offered, “So I can't support this motion tonight, Mr. Talbert, because it just is not where we need to go right now.”
Supervisor Staton shared that in the contracting process with Van der Linde, if they looked at a contract of five years or longer, it could be written in such a way as to protect the county from unreasonable increases.
Noting that the last garbage truck cost $204,000, Staton said that within five years it could cost $400,000 to $500,000 to buy the next two.
“The other issue we have is a safety issue,” said Staton, as he shared several incidents involving the satellite sites.
He added that the satellite sites “give an ugly impression to a beautiful county.”
Before calling for the vote, Chairman Snoddy stated, “I believe in recycling. I think it is a fine thing but I don't think Buckingham County is no where near ready for that type of thing.”
He offered that the satellite sites needed to be fenced and worked-on so that they could be manned.
Referencing the site in Arvonia that he said was probably the first to be fenced, Snoddy concluded, “That's what we need to continue to do and I think that when we get to that point maybe we can look at recycling.”