11/02/11 — Mobile home parks exempted from fee

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Mobile home parks exempted from fee

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 2, 2011 1:46 PM

Wayne County mobile home park owners have been exempted, at least for this year, from paying the county's $45 convenience (recycling) site fee -- a move that will create a $150,000 dent in the county budget.

The vote Tuesday by county commissioners was greeted with relief by mobile home park owners, who just two weeks ago had expressed surprise and frustration that they were subject to the fee that is charged per lot and could have cost some of them thousands of dollars.

It is a financial burden that they can ill afford during the current depressed economic conditions, the owners told commissioners at their Oct. 18 session.

However, the exemption is only for the current year and is one that County Manager Lee Smith said is necessary to give the county time to revisit the fee in hopes of finding a better way to more fairly administer it.

Contributing to the problem are conflicting rules between the county's mobile home park and solid waste ordinances, Smith said.

Smith asked commissioners to amend the county budget ordinance to provide for the exemption and to bring the county's solid waste committee together in December or January to review the issue for budget year 2012-13.

Smith said he planned to start work with the tax office Tuesday afternoon to credit the fee back to the mobile home park owners.

Commissioner Steve Keen's motion to implement Smith's recommendation was approved 7-0. Commissioner Jack Best did not vote, but was counted as a yes vote in accordance with board policy.

The fee, charged only to county residents living outside a municipality, isn't new. It was adopted 20 years ago when the county set up its current solid waste disposal system.

When commissioners adopted the 2011-12 county budget in June they reduced the fee from $6o to $45.

A second part of that action largely went unnoticed until county property tax bills, which include the fee, were mailed out last month. Until this year people who lived outside of the county's municipalities and who used a licensed hauler to carry off their garbage were exempted from the fee.

The exemption was eliminated when the fee was reduced.

As of June 30, revenue collected from the fee totaled about $1.1 million -- money that goes back into the solid waste department.

Commissioner Andy Anderson asked Smith to provide more of an explanation for the recommendation before a vote was taken.

It is not just an issue of garbage, it involves recycling as well, Smith said.

"First of all we do think as a staff we have looked the past several years that charging all residents of Wayne County is appropriate because all residents use our landfill services, use convenience centers at some point in time," Smith said. "Now that being said the issue that is tough for us is that in our mobile home park ordinance we require dumpsters in mobile home parks. Mobile home parks some have pickup service, some have dumpsters. Some do a real good job (recycling). Some do not.

"We have a similar problem with other residents, some do a good job and some do not. It is not an easy subject."

Smith said in an interview he was referring only to people who live outside of municipalities when he spoke of everyone in the county paying the fee.

He said he had recommended exempting only the mobile home park owners because they are required to have dumpsters, while other people in the county are not.

"I still think not charging is not fair because I think there needs to be a charge," Smith said. "What is needed though is a fairer way to charge one. This thing has been in place since 1988 and has not been re-addressed. It is just time to address it.

"I think for the sake of time, people have to pay their taxes by the fifth of January before they are late and we charge interest. The fee out there I think it is too misunderstood. I don't think the board understands it and I say that because those ordinances have been out so long and there are conflicts. I just made this judgment 10 minutes ago, but I feel like it is in the best interest of everybody in the room."