Citizens protest fees

Published 10:04 am Saturday, June 13, 2009

BOYKINS—Several citizens, including the town’s vice mayor, appeared in court Friday to dispute Boykins’ mandatory trash fee.

The judge presiding over the case in which Boykins took the residents to court for not paying the fee, will issue a ruling on the matter within seven days.

Southampton County General District Court Judge Warren Parker Councill listened as Linda Beatty railed against the fee and the method with which it was instituted. Beatty was the only opponent of the fee that made her case to the judge, the other defendants letting her speak for them.

“I just protest this because I don’t think that we should have to pay for a service that we’re not using,” Beatty told the judge, adding that she has contracted with a private hauler to take away garbage from her Boykins home.

“This fee is not the same thing as a water and sewer fee,” Beatty said. “The garbage is not piling up in front of my house. It’s not a nuisance to the public health.”

Beatty also challenged the legality of the ordinance that created the mandatory trash fee in 2007, arguing that there was not a public hearing on the matter before it was enacted.

Outside of the courthouse, two other defendants in the matter also spoke out against the fee.

“It’s not the fact of the amount owed, it’s the principal behind it,” said J.C. Owen. “It’s the fact that you’re not given (a choice). If you’re going to pass something, I think (the whole town) should have a vote on it, not have six people sit there and say ‘this is the law.’”

When asked if he would pay the fine, Owen said “I will not pay it until I am ordered to pay it by the judge. If I am ordered, I’ll pay it and then I’ll be back here again in a year for not paying it. It’s continual.”

Charles Vaughan concurred.

“I won’t pay it,” he said. “I haven’t used the service. I carry my trash to the dump. I cut my grass and keep my shrubbery cut. I have two small utility trailers and five or six plastic barrels. I just put my trash in it and take it out to the dump. Or sometimes I put it in the back of a pickup truck.”

Vaughan also criticized the fee, saying people on fixed incomes would have problems paying it.

After the hearing, Mayor Spier Edwards and Town Clerk Pat Draper declined to comment to the media outside of the courthouse. But Draper said later on Friday that she had brought a tape recorder to the hearing with a recording of previous town council meetings. Draper said the tape had evidence that Beatty participated in putting the ordinance for the trash collection fee together.

The judge declined to hear the tape, however.

Boykins took 12 people to court for refusing to pay the fee, which is $4.50 per month or $50 per year. According to town records, each person has not paid the fee for the last 21 months and owes $94.50. Collectively they owe the town $1,134.

The town charged a trash collection fee for several years, but the town council voted 3-2 on July 17, 2007 to make it mandatory. Beatty was one of the dissenting votes.

Councill issued judgments on May 29 in favor of Boykins in four of the 12 cases brought to the court. The judge ordered the defendants in the four cases to pay the $94.50 they owe, plus an additional 6 percent in interest. The court is still looking to serve two defendants.

Boykins picks up trash and yard waste twice a week. Trash is collected on Mondays and Fridays, while yard waste is picked up on Tuesdays and Thursdays.