10/17/07 — County: Three centers will still take trash

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County: Three centers will still take trash

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 17, 2007 2:24 PM

After receiving multiple phone calls and faced with nearly two dozen residents at the Wayne County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning, county officials decided to temporarily reconsider the closing of three of the 13 solid waste convenience centers.

The decision to close the sites -- Jordan Chapel, Eureka and Fremont -- was made at the recommendation of the county's solid waste committee.

The last day the three were open was Saturday.

County Manager Lee Smith explained the decision was made because of concerns about the septic systems at all three, as well as their low traffic volume.

It was an issue that county officials had been examining for about a year.

"We've been looking at all the convenience centers," Smith said. "For a county our size, we have a large number of convenience centers, and the solid waste committee said that if we've got a problem, then we need to go ahead and close them."

He explained that other than Saturdays, the three sites often only receive one to five customers a day, while the other 10 average more than 100 people a day.

Each of the three also is faced with safety and environmental challenges -- primarily a lack of space to install new septic tanks.

In addition, the Fremont site is built on an old landfill and is located at the end of a dead-end road.

Smith also said the county is concerned that there are people -- both from outside the county and from inside the municipalities -- using the sites who don't pay the $40-per-year solid waste fee.

"I can't tell you how extensive it is, but we know it's happening," he said.

Unlike the landfill, which has a minimum $5 tipping fee, the centers are free.

Smith also explained that because of the growth in usage at the other sites, keeping low-use centers on line could create a need for more personnel to keep up with the flow of trash.

"I have to look at it from a cost standpoint," he said. "You have to look at your volume, where it is and where you need to locate."

On Tuesday, however, because of the public outcry, the county decided to temporarily reverse course and re-open the sites for 45 days while officials continue to study the matter.

"The numbers are low, but we do have to consider all the options and locations," Smith said.

He hopes to have all three back up and running by the end of the week.

Those who showed up at the meeting, however, were upset that they were simply told the sites would be re-opened and that there was no need for them to speak on the matter.

"We were under the impression we would be able to speak to the county commissioners," Dwight Rose said. "And we were just shuffled out."

They were asked, though, to leave their names and numbers so they could be contacted later -- and none chose to stay to speak during the public comment period toward the end of the meeting.

For most, the concern was one of convenience and the fact that closing the sites would require longer drives and more gas.

"We pay our taxes just like everybody else. We pay $40 a year to use the convenience center," G.B. Westbrook said.

Some were worried that the closing of the centers would only cause less recycling, more littering and illegal dumping as people decide not to drive to another site farther away.

Others were disappointed in the lack of advance notice.

"None of us knew anything about this," Patricia Rose said. "If you went to dump, you got a note that it would close Saturday, but there were a lot of people who didn't go until Saturday."

By the end of the 45 days, Smith said he hopes to have some options to present to the board. Among those proposals could be a reduction in hours, an expansion of the existing sites or the construction of a consolidated center between Eureka and Fremont.

"They are really a vital part of keeping Wayne County clean. We're just hoping for a viable solution," Phil Yelverton said.

Also Tuesday, with nobody from the public standing to speak, the commissioners approved the incentive package for Reuel Inc., as the company expands after acquiring the Traction Power Division of IMPulse Manufacturing of Mount Olive.

The package includes a $50,000 grant to match half of the governor's $100,000 One North Carolina Fund grant, as well as another tax grant worth up to $50,000 during years 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The former is required as part of the grant program, while the latter will come from the real and personal property taxes paid as a result of the company's expansion. Both are also expected to be matched by the city of Goldsboro.

Reuel is scheduled to create 50 new jobs over the next three years.