STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COUNTY OF HENDERSON JUNE 8, 1999
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for a special-called meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 8, 1999 in the Commissioners= Meeting Room of the Henderson County Office Building at 100 North King Street, Hendersonville, NC. The purpose of the meeting was to conduct a public input session on Residential Solid Waste Franchising.
Present were: Chairman Grady Hawkins, Vice-Chair William Moyer, Commissioner Marilyn Gordon, Commissioner Renee Kumor, Commissioner Don Ward and Clerk to the Board, Elizabeth W. Corn.
Staff present were County Manager David E. Nicholson, County Engineer Gary Tweed and Staff Attorney Jennifer O. Jackson.
CALL TO ORDER/WELCOME
Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order and welcomed those in attendance.
OVERVIEW ON RESIDENTIAL SOLID WASTE FRANCHISING
County Engineer Gary Tweed gave the Board an overview of the proposed Residential Solid Waste Franchising and a brief history of what had taken place over the last couple of years and up to this point in time.
Mr. Tweed gave the reason for why the Board is considering franchising. The County, the solid waste haulers, and the County=s citizens would all be affected by franchising. It was Mr. Tweed=s opinion that each group would gain by franchising and he discussed the perspectives that each group would gain.
The County perspective. At the end of 1997, the County was required by the State to close the existing municipal solid waste landfill on Stoney Mountain Road. The County, knowing that the landfill was to close, chose to construct a solid waste transfer station which began operation the first of January 1998. Now all municipal solid waste is transferred to a waste management landfill in Wellford, South Carolina, the Palmetto Landfill. As a result of the trucking and disposal cost currently at $30.82 a ton, the County=s solid waste program expenses more than doubled from previous years. This resulted in the County raising the tipping fee from $26 a ton to $47.91 per ton. The Solid Waste Department is operated solely from the tipping fee and there are currently no property taxes used in the program. In addition to managing municipal solid waste, the Solid Waste Department manages wood waste, construction and demolition waste, white goods, tires, recyclables and it continues the post closure care of the old landfill. Unfortunately, with the increase in the tipping fee, some of the larger hauling companies chose not to bring their collected waste to this facility resulting in a reduction of flow and of a reduction in the Solid Waste revenue of about 50%. The smaller hauling companies which could not afford to haul outside the County due to the size of their equipment continue to depend on the Henderson County transfer station. This is one of the reasons the County was looking at franchising because by franchising the County would control where the solid waste is disposed by requiring that the solid waste be brought to the Henderson County transfer station. This would allow the County to operate fully funded by the enterprise system and not have to raise taxes to support the solid waste program.
From the hauler=s perspective. Prior to 1998, there were approximately 15 companies doing residential solid waste collection. Since that time, several of the smaller companies have been purchased by GDS and Waste Management. Currently, there are only eight of the smaller hauling companies in operation. GDS and Waste Management had informed County solid waste officials that they were pursuing other purchases also. Within the next year or so, it was expected that other smaller companies would sell. Within one to two years, it could be very likely there would be only one or two companies operating residential solid waste collection in the County. When that occurs, residents would have no choice of haulers as in the current system because monopolies would have been created. The small hauling companies requested that the County consider franchising in order to protect their business. By being issued a franchise, the small hauling companies would have exclusive rights to providing solid waste collection for a particular area. By operating in one geographic area, the hauling company expenses should drop. All the solid waste companies, including GDS and Waste Management, have indicated that they are fully supporting the proposed franchising.
From the residents perspective. Citizens want to know if the residents of the County benefit from franchising. First, if franchising does not occur and the smaller companies are bought out, monopolies could be formed which would be uncontrolled. Rates would surely increase if that occurred. By franchising, the Board of Commissioners controls each franchise area, the Board would establish service levels to be met, set the rates for these services, and would have full power to terminate the franchise for violations of the terms of the franchise. Today, if a resident has a problem that can=t be resolved with the solid waste hauler, the resident can switch solid waste haulers. But when there are only one or two companies left, there would be little the citizens could do to resolve conflicts. Therefore, franchising allows the County to control the rates and service levels for the citizens in the County. For those residing in a municipality where the municipality controls the solid waste collection, citizens have no choice who picks up their solid waste.
In summary, franchising of residential solid waste collection would allow the County to control solid waste flow and protect the funding of the enterprise system. Small companies wishing to remain in business would be able to do so by having their areas protected and hauling expenses minimized. Citizens would gain control through the Board of Commissioners over service levels and rates. The end result would be that all benefit from operating as a franchise system.
Staff had been working with the County=s Solid Waste Advisory Committee, haulers had conducted workshops and meetings with staff and this meeting was to seek input from the public. Following input, staff would finalize the proposed franchise documents for review by the Board of Commissioners and after the meeting, staff would prepare a summary of the comments of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, the haulers and the public input to be shared with the Board of Commissioners at the June 16th meeting. At that time, staff would propose a time line to the Board for the completion of this process.
Chairman Hawkins asked Mr. Tweed if any other counties in the State had franchised garbage haulers. Mr. Tweed replied there were several, but specifically Buncombe County had been franchised for several years. Most of the eastern counties and the larger metropolitan areas are franchised. Forsythe County is franchised. There were no counties in the western part of the State that had solid waste franchises in place.
Commissioner Ward asked Mr. Tweed what happens to the haulers= districts when the municipalities enlarge their jurisdiction such as through annexation. Mr. Tweed replied that the franchise districts are only in the unincorporated areas of the County. If the municipality annexes, it would assume responsibility for that area that=s annexed. Commissioner Ward further questioned if the whole franchised district was annexed, would the hauler lose the total district. Mr. Tweed replied that if the total district was annexed, the hauler would lose that district. Commissioner Ward noted that some districts were very small. Mr. Tweed replied the the boundaries had been put together by the haulers based on the current customer base. Each of the haulers would maintain their current customer base plus a 20% growth potential.
Commissioner Moyer asked Mr. Tweed if the proposal would have a specific way to deal with recyclables and construction debris. Mr. Tweed stated staff was looking at a company in Greenville, South Carolina to take the County=s recyclables. If the Board approved that, Mr. Tweed felt recycling could be incorporated into the franchising provided there was a way for the County to deal with the materials that were brought in by the haulers. Currently, the County had no way to deal with that. If a deal could be reached with the Greenville, SC company, then the County would be in a position to accept recyclables from the haulers.
Commissioner Kumor asked Mr. Tweed if residents who are in a franchised area could still choose to haul their trash to the landfill themselves or would they be obligated to use the hauler assigned to their area. Mr. Tweed replied that citizens would not be required to use the franchise hauler. They can still haul their solid waste and recyclables to the convenience center.
Commissioner Kumor further inquired if Mr. Tweed=s proposal to the Board would continue the recyclable trade off procedure, or the bag-for-bag program. Mr. Tweed replied that the Commissioners should look at that issue further because the County=s costs in dealing with recyclables were significant. If the bag-for-bag program was continued, the County would have to absorb those costs in the other fees that would be collected for solid waste. Commissioner Kumor had understood if the County was going to control the household waste flow, the tonnage going to the landfill would be increased which would lower the per ton cost and would still be able to cover the recycling costs. Mr. Tweed replied that the residential waste flow would still continue but the commercial waste flow had left and where it goes is based on market conditions. By controlling the residential flow, it would provide a good base to run the program. He wouldn=t have to be concerned in the future about some of this waste leaving the County and the enterprise fund being jeopardized as a result of it. If flows do pick up, then of course the revenues would increase.
Mr. Nicholson stated that the Board needed to clearly understand there is a cost for recycling. There has always been a cost for recycling, but the solid waste fund had been covering those costs over the years. Mr. Nicholson commented that the Board would need to take a serious look at the bag-for-bag program because everything will be charged for. As blue bags come across the scale there would be a charge for those because there is an expense associated with that. That lays the groundwork for the Commissioners to decide if they want to continue the bag-for-bag program for people who deliver to the convenience center keeping in mind that the hauler is charged for blue bags.
Commissioner Kumor asked if the haulers were charged when they brought recyclables. Mr. Tweed replied that haulers traditionally did not bring recyclables to the center. Commissioner Kumor said the hauler was picking up her recyclables. Mr. Nicholson explained the hauler was taking the recyclables directly to the company that was accepting recyclables rather than taking them to the landfill. Mr. Tweed stated that GDS operated companies that process blue bags and those blue bags are being re-routed through their operations in Buncombe County and then go to their landfill east of Charlotte. Those recyclables were not coming through the County=s system. Commissioner Kumor inquired how blue bags would be handled under the franchise system. Mr. Tweed replied that he wanted to be in a position to handle blue bags because that was the only way that service could be offered in the County. Blue bags couldn=t be done source separated because the haulers were not set up to do that. Mr. Tweed informed Commissioner Kumor that at the solid waste workshop next week he would present a full report on the recycling program and what the options and alternatives were.
Chairman Hawkins asked Mr. Tweed about the amount of materials that is being recycled. Mr. Tweed replied that the convenience recycling center generates about 150 tons per month of recyclables. That=s less than one day=s flow of waste. It=s a small volume by weight. If the Board chose to proceed with the countywide blue bag program, based on what was happening in Buncombe County, Mr. Tweed hoped to generate 100 tons per month off that program. If he could get those tonnages, then the program would work.
Chairman Hawkins asked if the landfill to which the recyclables were being sold was recycling the materials or just shipping it out somewhere else. Mr. Tweed explained it was not going to a landfill but it would go to a processing recycling center where the materials are sorted and baled and sent to different markets for those materials.
Commissioner Moyer felt that the franchise agreement should require recycling if the County adopts a plan. Mr. Tweed replied that there must be a plan in place before he could make that requirement.
Commissioner Gordon commented that one of the rationalities for the franchising is that the Board could control the hauling rates. She questioned how the rates could be controlled without franchising. Mr. Tweed replied there wouldn=t be any way to do that. The larger companies by the mere size of their operations could always undercut their rates which would drive out the small competitors, but then the rates would go back up. So there would be a constant game going on in order to control the rates. Commissioner Gordon understood that under franchising the rates would be controlled by the Commissioners based on the justification the haulers gave for the rate they requested.
John P. Kidd, 121 Woodhaven Drive, Hendersonville, NC 28739-Mr. Kidd advised the Commissioners that he was a member of the Flat Rock Council but his comments were as a citizen. Mr. Kidd had previously served three years on the County=s Solid Waste Committee. He spoke in favor of the franchising system as presented by Mr. Tweed. He encouraged the Board to insist there be some kind of mandated recycling effort to be included in this process. Mr. Kidd commented that the only realistic way to either maintain or increase the flow at the transfer station is through this process. There=s got to be some way for this program to pay for itself. Otherwise, there would be a significant increase in the ad valorem tax base and Mr. Kidd felt the citizens certainly did not want that as an option.
Roy Burrell, 633 Oak Grove Road, Flat Rock, NC 28731-Mr. Burrell spoke in opposition to the proposed franchising agreement. He did not want to lose the freedom of choosing which hauler to use. Mr. Burrell presented a list containing 165 names of residents of Henderson County from the Green River section that were opposed to franchising.
Bob Kneis- Mr. Kneis was with GDS, Incorporated and also was a resident in Henderson County. He was speaking on behalf of GDS who favored franchising the solid waste collection in the County. Mr. Kneis discussed the pro=s and con=s of the proposed franchising agreement. The number one pro was that the County would regulate the fee structure which would guarantee or mandate the level of service to the customers. It would guarantee the volume into the transfer station which would provide more efficient service to the haulers and in turn to the customers. Mr. Kneis wanted to make it clear that GDS had no intention of coming into the County to run the small hauler out of business or get a monopoly on the solid waste hauling market. However, franchising would secure the small companies= territories and revenues because they would have a guaranteed number of homes. Mr. Kneis addressed the question raised by Commissioner Ward about annexation and how that would impact the franchise. There are two options with annexation. When an area gets annexed, the Governing Body could choose to permit the hauler already in that area to provide that service for two years, or compensate the hauler for one year=s revenue. Another benefit would be improved service within the service areas. He gave an example: Currently, there are areas where there are six residences on a road and each household has chosen a different hauler. Under franchising, all households in a given area would have the same hauler which minimizes the traffic on the road which reduces the wear on the streets and roads. Mr. Kneis stated that GDS was currently taking all recycling material to a large recycling facility in Troy, NC but they would prefer to have a local arrangement with Henderson County.
Drew Isenhour- Mr. Isenhour too was with GDS, Garbage Disposal Service, and just wanted to reiterate what Mr. Kneis had expressed on behalf of GDS. He stated that GDS was a big advocate of recycling and GDS encouraged Henderson County to implement some type of recycling program. GDS had been in business for 52 years throughout the State and the company=s intent had never been to run out of business the small garbage hauling companies. Mr. Isenhour also stated that franchising would permit the Commissioners to establish and control rates which would provide consistency in rates throughout the County. Whatever the outcome of the Board=s decision, GDS would never attempt to run out of business the small haulers.
Commissioner Gordon asked of Mr. Isenhour if any of the franchises that GDS had with any of the counties was non-exclusive. Mr. Isenhour replied that yes the proposed franchise to Henderson County was non-exclusive in that there were several different haulers that are allowed in the County. Under an exclusive franchise, GDS would be the only hauler permitted in the county. Catawba County and Alexander County were under an exclusive franchise with GDS.
Lewis Staton, 409 Crest Road, East Flat Rock, NC 28726- Mr. Staton expressed concern about whether the residents of Henderson County would continue to have a choice of using a hauler or taking their solid waste to the facility themselves. He also expressed concern that the small haulers would be greatly impacted by the franchise. Mr. Staton recommended the Board consider limiting 40% of the franchise to GDS and keep 60% for the local Henderson County small haulers who make their living by hauling other people=s trash.
Robert Morris, Route 1, Box 446, Flat Rock, NC 28731- Mr. Morris spoke in opposition to franchising. He listed some reasons for opposing franchising: it destroys the free enterprise system; quality of service declines and rates would escalate. Mr. Morris asked what would happen if there were only two haulers permitted in the County under the franchise and both haulers declined to accept the Board=s control of the rates. He challenged the Commissioners to find out the truth of why the County was even considering franchising. Mr. Morris stated that two Commissioners had told him that the garbage haulers association requested franchising. However, members of the garbage haulers association personally told him that they were told the Commissioners requested franchising. So he questioned who actually wanted the franchising. Mr. Morris had personally spoke with over two-thirds of the organized haulers in the County and each one voiced opposition to franchising. He encouraged the Commissioners to talk directly with the haulers and the citizens of the County in order to obtain the truth. Mr. Morris further commented that Mr. Tweed had stated the purpose of the franchising was to control the flow into the transfer station but Mr. Tweed had also stated that franchising would not increase the flow. With that in mind, the franchise would be only a monitoring of the flow because the larger companies do what they please once the garbage is placed on their trucks. An argument could be made that once the garbage is on the trucks, it then becomes a commodity under the discretion of the hauler. Naturally, haulers would dispose of the product where the costs are the least. If the County wants the flow, the cost should be cut because quantity equals revenues. Mr. Morris encouraged the Board to reduce the tipping fee to a more competitive price which would in turn increase the flow into the transfer station. Ways of accomplishing that would be to discontinue the Treasure Trough which permits citizens to dispose of their unwanted items free, completely restructure the recycling program due to the depleted markets and do away with a terribly abused bag-for-bag program. The Commissioners received bids last year from a private company to run the transfer station with all services included which would have dropped tipping fees $9 a ton. Mr. Morris questioned if a private company could do that and make a profit, why couldn=t the County reduce the Afat@ at the Stoney Mountain Road facility and reduce the tipping fees. After the bidding process, the costs were cut $3 a ton. Mr. Morris asked why the citizens didn=t receive a reduced tipping fee at that time. He felt the citizens were well satisfied with the system that had been in place for approximately fifty years. Mr. Morris stated that he expected the Commissioners as elected officials to reduce government, leave the free enterprise system to the public, and follow the old rule of thumb, if it=s not broken, don=t try to fix it.
Terry Hicks, 27 Mountain Lake Drive, Hendersonville, NC 28739- Mr. Hicks was a resident in Flat Rock. His biggest question was what made the cost of handling solid waste in the Henderson County landfill so much more expensive than in other counties or more expensive if it=s handled by private industry. He pondered if it was a pressure that the Commissioners were placing that the landfill must operate and pay its own way or was there reason for no subsidy. Maybe some subsidies were needed in order to accomplish certain goals in reducing the solid waste or to increase recyclables. Mr. Hicks certainly understood the pressure of the Commissioners to keep taxes to the lowest possible level. He questioned if the plan was so that any franchise hauler would be required to use the landfill or was it the hope that all these haulers coming in together would reduce the cost of operating the landfill and if so, how could they be sure that would happen. Also Mr. Hicks asked if there was a plan for close oversight of the franchisees. He understood there would be a common price for everyone with everybody paying the same fee countywide and he wondered if that was the goal of franchising. As a resident of Flat Rock and as a representative for the Village, he requested the Commissioners provide more opportunity for recyclable opportunities. He knew that each government agency in the State had to set goals for reduction in recyclables. Mr. Hicks hadn=t heard much about emphasis being placed on recyclable problems. His family recycled everything it could but it was having great difficulty since the only recycling station available to them had been closed. Monopoly appeared to be one of the outcomes if franchising was adopted and questioned what were the other options to monopoly. Mr. Hicks encouraged the Commissioners to analyze other options before adopting franchising. He suggested that before any franchisee was appointed that a thorough study be made of their background and their operations not only in this County but in other counties so that the citizens would have a good picture. Most of all he was hoping that as this process goes along that extra effort would be made to share with the citizens of Henderson County exactly what the Commissioners were doing so the citizens would feel like they have a way to address their problems with solid waste.
Chairman Hawkins stated that Mr. Hicks had mentioned that Henderson County=s costs exceed other counties and he asked Mr. Hicks to share with the Commissioners what counties he had researched and determined that their costs were significantly different than the County. Mr. Hicks replied that he wasn=t using any particular research but he was referring to the information provided by Mr. Tweed. When Mr. Hicks was using a commercial hauler, he was advised that it was cheaper for the hauler to carry his solid waste to other places, whether it was Buncombe County or to a private landfill in South Carolina. Mr. Hicks found it interesting that at the last of July when the prices went up in the local landfill that the prices locally for citizens paying for garbage service also went up on the basis that the County was going to be charging the hauler more. However upon further inquiry, Mr. Hicks determined his local hauler was not taking the garbage to Henderson County but was dropping it at another facility outside the County.
Chairman Hawkins stated that the County did have some goals for increasing recyclables and he would be pleased to share those with Mr. Hicks at the end of the meeting.
Charlie Walker- Mr. Walker was a member of the SWAC and stated that the SWAC had labored intensively over this complex issue. SWAC had come up with several routes but they had not decided which one to travel. Mr Walker understood that the County needed franchising to control the flow of solid waste. However, Mr. Walker disagreed with that theory because he wasn=t certain that the County could control the flow. The County is assuming that once the garbage is on the hauler=s truck that it will go to the Henderson County landfill. However, that=s not necessarily the case. The hauler may choose to take the solid waste to another location where the tipping fees are lower. Mr. Walker stated he felt that franchising destroys the free enterprise system and it takes away from the people=s choice. If one or two companies buy out all the other solid waste haulers, it doesn=t guarantee that another company won=t come in and compete against the big companies. Mr. Walker understood that franchising could be a tool to expand recycling in some ways. As the owner of Charlie=s Scrap, he could speak from personal experience that the markets for recyclables were depleted. Some recyclables were very hard for the dealer to get rid of. Therefore the income of the dealer was declining while the expense of operating was increasing. The Commissioners would have to decide how important it was to Henderson County to continue the recycling programs. Mr. Walker agreed that recycling was important but he cautioned there was no way to insure that the recyclables picked up would actually get recycled. Some products get recycled but some end up back in the landfill. If the Commissioners chose to hire a vendor for recycling, Mr. Walker thought the Commissioners should get some kind of guarantee from the vendor that the County was not paying the vendor more or less to handle waste and then the products would end up back in the waste stream. A system that would monitor that recyclables were being taking out of the waste stream would be needed. Mr. Walker urged the Board to really take a good look at where the County stands now and where it is headed concerning the County=s solid waste. He understood Mr. Tweed=s objective to franchising was to be able to control the flow but he felt that cutting some of the operating costs at the landfill could reduce the tipping fees. Reduced tipping fees would increase the flow, the free enterprise system would still be in place, and people would continue to have a choice of haulers. Franchising would eliminate those opportunities. Mr. Walker urged the Commissioners to consider that their decision would not only affect this generation but the future of the County as well.
Paul Kays- Mr. Kays was paying an additional fee to his hauler for coming up his long drive way to pick up his trash. He was concerned that type of personal service might decline if the haulers were franchised. If the Commissioners chose to franchise, Mr. Kays hoped they would permit the haulers to continue such personal services.
Terry Maybin- Mr. Maybin was an independent hauler. As an independent hauler, all revenues and expenses come out of his personal income. Mr. Maybin explained how the discussions of franchising started. In January when the solid waste haulers began discussing franchising, he initially did not like the idea of franchising and until he could learn more about franchising he wouldn=t like it any better now. However, he was not speaking in opposition of franchising. As an independent hauler, one of the pleasures of that kind of business was receiving a phone call from a new customer who had heard good reports in the community about the hauler=s service which resulted in an increased customer base. Under the current system, Mr. Maybin could go to any part of the County to get his solid waste business and he had traveled great distances to do so hoping to pick up some additional customers along the way. Although he understood the bag-for-bag theory, Mr. Maybin questioned why the hauler couldn=t take a ton of recyclables and get credit for a ton of garbage. He wanted somebody to explain to him why the difference because he was merely taking the recyclables to the landfill for the citizens. He hoped the Commissioners could understand his position.
Chairman Hawkins stated the Board had received many interesting perspectives. Staff would take those comments that had been presented and see where the County and the haulers were on the current proposals. Chairman Hawkins commented that the County had begun some discussions with other counties in the area looking at the possibility of a solid waste authority.
That would be a networking of utilizing all the facilities in the various counties. There were a couple of those already existing in the State. One of the issues those authorities attempt to address is the high cost of opening up, operating, maintaining and closing forever a landfill which is a very expensive operation. Chairman Hawkins further commented that the County no longer has an operative landfill but it now has a transfer station and a landfill that was being monitored. Some construction and demolition disposal was still there but actually solid waste had been closed there for sometime. Consequently, there was no place in the County for solid waste so it had to be transferred to another facility. Referring to a comment that Mr. Burrell had made about hoping to keep the hauler he had for a long time, Chairman Hawkins didn=t anticipate under franchising that haulers in a given area would be changed to another area. It was possible that Mr. Burrell would have the same hauler. However that was an important point because many comments made had eluded to the impression that under franchising the County was going to assign haulers to different areas. However, that wasn=t the case because the haulers would remain pretty much in the established areas they currently have. Obviously, recycling would be an issue the Commissioners would have to deal with under franchising, whether it was bag-for-bag or blue bag or whatever system. The County Engineer had indicated that staff was currently working on that to see how that could fit into the proposal. Chairman Hawkins stated that one thing for sure that flow is important, whether it=s being recycled or whether you=re having to pay for it but that=s just one of the lynch pins of solid waste. At the solid waste workshop, staff would hopefully provide the Board with some of those answers.
Commissioner Moyer stated he was under the impression that an overwhelming majority of the haulers were in favor of going to franchising. Certainly based on what Mr. Morris had said as well as some of the other people, he questioned whether that was a true statement. It appeared the haulers viewed it as the Commissioners were dictating it and he questioned whether the haulers were really in favor of franchising. Commissioner Moyer wanted staff to find out what the true feeling of the haulers was about franchising.
Mr. Tweed stated that last Thursday, there was a solid waste haulers meeting at which all haulers but one were present. He specifically asked the group if anyone was opposed to franchising but no one spoke up.
Commissioner Gordon thought some issues had been presented to the Commissioners at this meeting that the Board would have to contemplate. She repeatedly heard the term enterprise and it occurred to her that applies to both haulers and citizens. The County chose to establish an enterprise system in setting up the landfill operation and with that the Board made a commitment to operate a business and do it without County tax revenue and have it stand on its own. Evidently, it=s not standing on its own very well right now. When Commissioner Gordon translates that into what her experience had been in the business world, she got into terms such as customer account, which she assumed was the same as the amount of waste hauled to the landfill. For her convenience store, that is referred to as customer account and it would be wonderful to know that every day the store would have a certain amount coming into her business. But the real world doesn=t work that way. Some of the things Commissioner Gordon would need to think about is whether government should have the prerogative of setting its own terms for its own enterprise system. Or whether the County should operate under the same terms that everybody else does. She would like to hear directly from some of the people who would be most significantly impacted by this decision.
Chairman Hawkins stated the Board would listen to other options if given. When the County had to close the landfill, Commissioners pondered whether to construct a new landfill or use a transfer station. In Transylvania County, which was operating an environmentally sanctioned lined landfill with the appropriate wells and all the items that are required, they were also spending a considerable amount of their general tax revenue to operate it. So there are a lot of other combinations that could be used to address the problem. Those are some of the things the Board had looked at previously and he was sure the Board would look at them further. If the landfill is not operated as an enterprise, or in this transfer station, the Commissioners would have to decide what are the options, what can be done and what is it going to cost. So there would be a lot of issues to examine before the solid waste workshop.
Commissioner Kumor thought the issues raised by the haulers and Commissioners Moyer and Gordon were very valid but in addition she thought more information was needed to fully understand the ramifications of long term solid waste issues that started years ago when the County lost flow control at the Federal level.
Commissioner Gordon stated there wasn=t an easy cut and dried solution. As the system is now if a citizen wants to pay a hauler to take their recyclables, all they have to do is find one that offers that service. The citizen may have to pay a little more for that service but the option is there, the citizen has a choice. Commissioner Gordon would like to see every person have recycling available at the door, that would be the goal for the County.
Commissioner Moyer stated another question he had to wrestle with even if franchising makes sense that it is the right way to go, whether the County should go with franchising now before the Board decides what it was going to do on the regional basis, or whether the County was going to do a landfill or whatever. It seemed to him that the County was getting the tail a little bit ahead of where the head of the dog had to be. If it was determined that there wasn=t too much advantage of franchising, then maybe the Board doesn=t need to move to franchising until the County goes to regional operations or until the County gets its own landfill or whatever. Then the Commissioners could re-evaluate whether franchising makes sense. But Commissioner Moyer wasn=t yet convinced that it made sense with the transfer station in operation.
Commissioner Ward stated that in his personal business he operates in a franchise and it=s a tough situation. It=s a tough market because in essence you are competing against other franchises. Commissioner Ward likes the free enterprise. Franchising would eliminate that. Under the franchise system proposed, there would be no room for expansion. If annexation occurred, some haulers would lose some of their territories which would impact their livelihood. Commissioner Ward fully supported Commissioner Moyer=s suggestion of waiting to see if the County would be going to a regional basis before jumping into a franchise situation. It might be deemed the County doesn=t even need a franchise if a landfill is sited in the area because the flow control would be there. If the site should be in Rutherford County or somewhere else, franchising might be needed to guarantee flow control. He encouraged the Board to work with the franchising very slowly and see what all the options are.
Chairman Hawkins commented the Board would have to make a decision which way to go, whether to remain as is and hope that the transfer station can be operated without tax dollars or with tax dollars or would the County augment the recycling system with tax dollars which would mean a tax increase to pay for it, or would the County be able to fit into some kind of regional consortium. He didn=t know what the outcome would be. In today=s market, Chairman Hawkins didn=t think there would be a point when the Commissioners would have all those answers to where the decision to make would become intuitively obvious. At some point, the Commissioners would have to make as good a decision as it could based on the information it had and its best guess for the future. That may be siting a landfill in Henderson County at a tremendous cost. Buncombe County sited a landfill and had a tremendous problem making enough flow to pay their debt service on it. When the County=s tipping fee increased, the haulers initially took their solid waste to Buncombe County for a little while but they found out their tipping fee including the cost of driving over to Buncombe County and back was equal to or worse than the one they had in Henderson County=s transfer station. Meetings and discussion would help the Board to find a workable solution.
Commissioner Ward asked staff if the County subsidized the enterprise system with property tax, what would that do to a municipality. County Manager Nicholson replied that staff would have to research that. Commissioner Ward thought he had read where the municipality would have the availability to the landfill at no charge per tonnage. He knew the City brought several tons of garbage to the County landfill per day.
Mr. Nicholson reminded the Board that the enterprise fund is how the County funds a public service. He encouraged the Board as it looked at this issue to also look at it as a public service and how the service would be provided and would the service be available to the community. By law, the County must have some type of solid waste program although the law doesn=t say how to do it. He encouraged the Board to remember this is a business for the County and as a business revenues come in and expenditures go out. Mr. Nicholson encouraged the Board as it deliberated on this issue to remember that this a public service that it provides to the community.
There were no further comments and Chairman Hawkins adjourned the meeting at 8:19 p.m.
Elizabeth W. Corn, Clerk to the Board Grady Hawkins, Chairman