County proposes landfill fee

By Mary Katherine Murphy

August 4, 2014

LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Board of Commissioners forwarded to its policy committee on Monday a potential fee to generate funds for eventual closure of the county landfill.

Earlier this year, the state treasurer issued a letter to the commissioners directing them to address the landfill’s annual pattern of operating at a loss. The commissioners discussed the issue when tackling the 2015 budget, but saw no way of incorporating the cost of closing the facility — at well over $1 million — into a single budget.

“We have a landfill that we’re losing money with every year, and we’re trying to figure some way to at some point close that, and there are costs related to that,” said Commissioner Whit Gibson.

On Monday, County Manager Kevin Patterson floated the idea of an annual fee of $55 assessed for each property in the county holding a habitable structure. At that rate, it would take the county 15 years to accumulate the $2.9 million necessary to close and cover the landfill as well as perform the annual groundwater testing required for an additional 30 years after closure.

After Gibson questioned the fairness of charging apartment complexes the same rate as ordinary homeowners, Patterson said that owners of properties with multiple residences, in similar cases, pay more.

“There actually is a precedent for charging multi-tenant dwellings different rates or the same rate, but multiplied, so if you have an apartment building, instead of paying one rate, I know Robeson County actually charges that rate times the number of units they have,” he said. “So that would be an option.”

In other business, the commissioners received an update from Public Buildings Supervisor Mike McGirt on a project to replace fascia on buildings at county complex. Bidding for the contract opens this week, with a 90-day work period expected at a cost of approximately $60,000.

Tax Administrator Mary Helen Norton reported a 94.41 percent collection rate of real estate taxes for 2013-2014, and a 85.44 percent motor vehicle tax collection rate. Deputy finance officer Beth Hobbs reported on the state of the county’s fund balance, which has increased from $6.7 million in June 2013 to $7.8 million, or 13.55 percent of annual county expenditures, as of June 30.

Also on Monday, the commissioners voted to make a formal request to the N.C. Arts Council that the Storytelling and Arts Center of the Southeast be designated as the Arts Council of Scotland County. That vote came after a request from SACS board chair Brenda Gilbert and SACS executive director Jan Schmidt, who pointed out that Scotland County is the only county in the state without a state arts council.

According to Schmidt, the designation will increase the center’s access to workshops and programs by coordination with arts council staff statewide, as well as allowing more grant opportunities, without cost to the county.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 506-3169. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.