Orange board considering recycling options

Apr. 11, 2013 @ 12:46 PM

In searching for ways to fund and provide recycling services in Orange County, the Board of Commissioners set goals and eliminated some options during a meeting this week in Hillsborough.
The commissioners eliminated the possibility of awarding a franchise agreement to a single hauler, an option that was not popular with those who favored giving equal opportunities for local private haulers to do business in Orange County.
The commissioners also liked the idea forming a county-wide authority, similar to the Orange Water and Sewer Authority, to deal with solid waste and recycling, but that option would likely take several years to bring to fruition and would require at least one of the municipalities to join it.
“My first choice is really the authority, and I would like to move toward that and see if any municipality is interested,” said Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier.
Creating an authority to deal with solid waste and recycling issues, however, would not likely solve the problem of what to do for the immediate future since it could take several years.
Although the county has the most successful recycling program in the state, recycling 59 percent of its waste, a recent North Carolina Supreme Court decision involving another county has made it appear that the 3 percent recycling fee that Orange County had added to the tax bills was illegal.
That means the county has to come up with a new way to fund and operate its recycling program.
At a previous meeting, County Manager Frank Clifton suggested the county go to a franchise system, but that suggestion was met with protests from community members as well as private haulers, some who serve elderly and disabled people. It would put them out of business and create problems for customers who rely on them to provide personal, backdoor service, they said.
The commissioners asked county staff to come back with a list of options, and at Tuesday’s meeting, Assistant County Manager Michael Talbert presented other options, which included forming a solid waste management authority or forming districts similar to the fire districts and levying a tax for each district.
Other options included taxing everyone in the county, which would require the towns to join the system, taxing everyone in the unincorporated areas, or taxing only those who currently receive curbside recycling service in the unincorporated areas, which is about 13,700 customers.
Other options would be to enter into individual franchise agreements for various districts, which could allow local private haulers to participate.
After hearing about the options, the County Commissioners voted to set five goals for a new program, including cost efficiency, maximizing recycling, maximizing equity, being fair to current employees and private haulers and advancing the possibility of comprehensive waste reduction with the municipalities.
They asked the staff to return at the next meeting with the pros and cons of some of the curbside recycling options, including starting an authority, dividing the county into districts similar to the fire districts and taxing those districts individually.
Commissioner Earl McKee said he believed the commissioners were going about the process backward. He suggested that instead of deciding on an option and then asking the towns if they would be interested in joining, they should approach the towns now and work with them on developing the best system.
Commissioner Penny Rich agreed but said that doesn’t mean the commissioners can’t go ahead and consider options now to decide which ones they do and don’t like.