LAURINBURG — The solid waste fee assessed to all property owners for the first time on the latest set of tax bills came as a source of shock and dismay to some in Scotland County.
After months of debate, the Scotland County Board of Commissioners in June approved the implementation of an annual solid waste availability fee of $55 for properties within the limits of Laurinburg, Gibson, and Wagram and $85 for those living outside of municipal limits.
Some, like Donna Ransom, were unprepared to find the additional fee on their tax bills this month. Ransom, who lives between Laurel Hill and Hamlet, feels that the fee is unfair since the county does not provide trash collection services.
“They’re charging us for solid waste that’s not available to us,” she said. “I don’t use the landfill, because it’s almost in Maxton.
“If they want to give us trash cans and pick up our trash once a week, we’d be happy to pay it.”
The commissioners approved the landfill fees in an attempt to bring the county’s solid waste enterprise to a break-even point and ultimately create a reserve to fund closure — at a cost of around $3 million — of the county landfill.
County Manager Kevin Patterson has said that the decline in modular home manufacturing and industrial waste in recent years has led to a loss of revenue for the landfill, which ended the 2015 fiscal year at a loss of around $150,000.
The county has subsidized the solid waste fund using a total of $1 million in general fund revenue, a practice which has for several years drawn the censure of the N.C. Local Government Commission, as enterprise funds should be self-sustaining.
According to John Horne, the county’s solid waste officer, profits from the county’s construction and demolition landfill formerly covered the cost incurred by the county of disposing of residents’ household trash at the Uwharrie municipal solid waste landfill.
With the countywide fee, trash disposal costs for most county residents have been eliminated. As of July 1, those living in Scotland County can bring up to 10 bags of trash per week to the landfill or any of the county’s five recycling centers free of charge.
Horne said that the recycling centers’ intake of household trash has been on a significant upswing this month.
“We knew we would see this for the first month or two,” he said. “Basically they’ve been hoarding their trash or illegally dumping it, but now they see they can bring it to the recycle center rather than being penalized for illegal dumping.”
Scotland County is now one of many counties to collect an annual solid waste availability fee. Richmond County’s fee is $115 for those living in Rockingham and $158 for those living elsewhere in the county.
“We have had a positive response from our citizens — we had some of them say it’s about time we went to this way of paying for trash instead of having to hand money out every time they come to the recycle center,” said Horne.
But for those caught unaware of the new fee, finding a mysterious extra charge on their tax bills was a nasty surprise they feel could have been avoided.
“If they would have explained this to us before we got the bill, most people probably would have been okay with it,” Ransom said. “But they just snuck it in on our bill …. so of course we’re going to be angry.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.