11/20/08 — Duplin resident questions tasks of workers

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Duplin resident questions tasks of workers

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 20, 2008 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to instruct the Solid Waste Department to stop doing work for other departments while the county attorney finds out if such actions are illegal.

Commissioners added Jimmy Dixon of Mount Olive to their agenda to hear about allegations of illegal actions by the Solid Waste Department. He said because the department operates from an enterprise fund, resources are supposed to be used only for the purpose of solid waste collection and disposal.

The problem, he said, is the department has been performing tasks like cutting the grass at Duplin Commons and doing land clearing work at James Sprunt Community College.

Dixon said he believes Solid Waste Director Bee Barnette did the work with good intentions.

"However, there are no good reasons for breaking the law," he said.

And while the law states that the fee for solid waste collections is not supposed to generate more money than is needed to operate the facility, Dixon said that the department has enriched itself at the expense of the county taxpayers through the $90 availability fees charged on property tax bills for use of the drop-off convenience sites.

At one time, he said, the solid waste fund got up to $4 million.

"We have 14,000 rural residents who pay the $90 a year. Some are on fixed incomes," Dixon said. "What is going to happen when these 14,000 people find out there's enough money in the Solid Waste Department to do work at James Sprunt and Duplin Commons?"

Dixon threatened to sue commissioners and the Solid Waste Department on behalf of himself and the people he represents if the practice of working for other departments isn't stopped.

When asked after the meeting whom he claims to represent, Dixon said it is an informal group of about five or six "like-minded people."

"It's a serious issue, but I think there will be resolution to it," he said.

Dixon also asked commissioners to audit the solid waste fund for at least the past eight years. He added that he and his friends feel the Solid Waste Department has been overcharging the taxpayers in Duplin County.

Commissioners voted unanimously to put a stop to the work and instructed County Attorney Wendy Sivori to research the matter.

Ms. Sivori is to report back to commissioners during their Dec. 1 meeting.