Boykins dumps trash appeal

Published 7:58 am Friday, July 31, 2009

BOYKINS—The town’s long-running battle over its mandatory trash collection fee took another twist Monday, when the Town Council voted to withdraw the town’s appeal of a judge’s ruling last month against Boykins and retain the services of a Richmond law firm to retool its trash collection ordinance.

Boykins Mayor Spier Edwards said Thursday that the Town Council, which voted 3-1 on a combined motion to drop the appeal and amend the ordinance, “felt that rather than spend additional money to appeal the cases, the money would be better spent to reconstruct the trash collection ordinance.”

Both Edwards and Town Clerk Pat Draper said the town has so far spent thousands on legal fees over the trash collection fee dispute with some of the town’s residents.

“It would have cost thousands more to have the cases appealed,” Draper said Thursday.

Edwards said the Richmond-based law firm Hefty & Wiley, which specializes in municipal law, “will either amend or reconstruct the whole code” of the ordinance. The mayor added that attorneys with the Virginia Municipal League, which has also been advising the town, recommended the law firm.

According to Edwards, the reconstructed trash collection ordinance would not require a public hearing but Hefty & Wiley attorneys were advising the town to eventually schedule one anyway.

“They’re telling us that when it’s time to just go ahead and have a public hearing and let the citizens have their input,” Edwards said. “That would be a plus for us.”

The mayor also said the current ordinance needed to be amended because of confusing language or omissions. For example, the current trash collection ordinance doesn’t charge the owners of vacant homes.

“We’re currently not charging all of the people,” Edwards said. “We need to make some changes to the ordinance.”

Southampton County General District Court Judge Warren Parker Councill ruled on June 23 that the town’s trash collection fee was not enforceable because the municipality did not hold a public hearing before making the fee mandatory in 2007. His ruling currently absolves J.C. Owen, William Pennington, Charles Vaughan and the town’s vice mayor, Linda Beatty, from paying the fee.

Boykins took 12 people to General District Court for refusing to pay the fee, which is $4.50 per month or $50 per year. When the cases went to court, the 12 people collectively owed the town $1,134.

Councill ordered four people to pay the $94.50 they owed, plus an additional 6 percent in interest, on May 29. Two other defendants agreed to pay the fee before presumably being ordered by Councill to do so.

Edwards said Hefty & Wiley attorneys also advised the town that amending the trash collection ordinance would neutralize any uncertainties over Councill’s rulings.

“If other localities were taken to court, probably half of the ordinances they have wouldn’t stand up in court with two lawyers tearing it apart,” Edwards said.

Monday’s vote was a reversal of a similar 3-1 vote on June 29 to appeal the cases to Circuit Court. Michael Gadsby dissented both times. Beatty was out of town for Monday’s meeting, and recused herself from the June 29 vote.

The town charged a trash collection fee for several years, but the town council voted 3-2 in 2007 to make it mandatory. Beatty and Gadsby voted against the idea.

Boykins picks up household waste twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays. Yard waste is picked up on Tuesdays.