Whitesburg KY

County garbage rates set to be raised by $2

The Letcher County Fiscal Court will conduct the first reading of an amended ordinance at its next regular meeting that could raise sanitation rates in the county by as much as $2.

The matter was brought up at the June meeting and a $2 rate increase was introduced before Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton told the court that rates were set as part of the county’s existing sanitation ordinance and any increase will mean the ordinance would have to be changed as well. The court then voted to advertise the changes to the ordinance and Hatton said he will have a revised ordinance ready for the first reading for the next court meeting.

The court voted to discontinue negotiations with Waste Connections, Inc., a Texas based waste management company with an offi ce in Lily in Laurel County. Waste Connection’s bid to take over the county’s garbage system called for a monthly fee for weekly home pick-up of $16.88 per household, for up to three 30-gallon cans. The cost would double for four to six cans and triple for seven to nine cans. Judge/Executive Jim Ward told the court he had negotiated with Waste Connections and had gotten it to lower its rates, but Ward said it was not enough to be affordable in Letcher County.

District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming said he did not think people on fixed incomes could afford an increase of $6 and said he believed the court should raise rates to allow the Sanitation Department to break even. He said he thought the Waste Connections rates would put too much of a hardship on county residents. Fleming then moved that the court reject all bids for sanitation service. District Two Magistrate Terry Adams seconded Fleming’s motion and Fleming added that under the proposed bid from Waste Connections, about half the county’s sanitation workforce would see their jobs discontinued.

“We can’t afford to lose that many jobs,” said Fleming.

District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson said if the court stops negotiating with Waste Connections the court will need to look at raising rates in order to eliminate the $100,000 plus deficit in the Sanitation Department. District Four Magistrate Keith Adams said that most of the people he has talked to about sanitation have said they would not mind a rate increase if it means the county will continue to operate the sanitation department.

Terry Adams asked Ward about progress in locating an acceptable site by Waste Reduction Technologies, which has proposed a proprietary autoclave system that uses high pressure steam to reduce household waste and cellulose waste to a bio-degradable mass that could be made into briquettes that can be burned along with coal to reduce emissions. The Waste Reduction Technologies proposal would be done at no cost to the county for the equipment and start-up fees and at a meeting held last August, WRT representatives told the court its monthly costs would initially be no higher than the landfill fees the county currently pays and could go as low as $15 per month. Under the WRT proposal the county would continue to pick up the garbage and take it to the site where it will be separated and processed.

Adams, who has been enthusiastic about the environmental aspects of the project as well as possible savings to the county, said he doesn’t want to see the project dropped before it is entirely explored. Ward said WRT is looking at property at a more centrally located location and that if the court does enter to into an agreement with it, the processor will not be located at Millstone. The initial proposal to locate the processor at the Millstone landfill and transfer site has generated opposition from Millstone residents who feel that their road is already unsafe for the amount of traffic generated by the transfer station and have said they have been impacted enough by the landfill and garbage hauled to the transfer station. County Attorney Hatton cautioned the court to make sure Waste Reduction Technologies can get all the necessary permits before entering into any agreement with it.

Magistrate Fleming said the court needs to take action to ensure that sanitation deficits do not continue and said the department needs to operate on a paying basis and pointed to deficits in earlier courts of up to $250,000 per year. The court and Sanitation Department have managed to decrease the deficit and increase collections, but with increases in landfill (tipping) fees and fuel costs, Fleming said the sanitation department can’t afford to continue to run the ongoing deficit. Terry Adams said he doesn’t think the court needs to raise rates until it can see if the Waste Reduction Technologies process will work, but Magistrate Gibson said the court could be looking at a $200,000 loss in six months at the current rates with projected increases in costs.

Ward told the court the county currently has about 7,500 paying customers, a number that does not include the cities of Whitesburg, Fleming-Neon, and Jenkins, which have their own trash pickup operations. Fleming said the court needs to go ahead and raise fees by $2 per month now and added if the “pipe dream” (WRT process) works, it can lower fees at a later date. Gibson added that the Sanitation Department needs to “really knuckle down” on collecting bills.

Gibson moved to amend the ordinance to raise rates by $2 and added the the court needs to think about adding language to automatically raise rates by 25 cents each year to match rising costs. At that time Hatton said the court first needs a motion to advertise changes in the original sanitation ordinance. Gibson echoed the frustration of other court members at the ongoing disposal of trash by throwing it over the hill or in the creeks, “Why do they throw it in the creek when we pick it up anyway?” said Gibson. “That shows a low mentality.”

The court voted five to one to advertise for changes in the sanitation ordinance with Ward casting the lone no vote.

“I don’t want to do it (raise rates) before we rule out our other options,” said Ward.

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