Mayors say $200 garbage fee violates county agreement

Published 9:39 am Wednesday, July 25, 2012

COURTLAND—Capron Mayor Nick Kitchen may ask his Town Council to rescind a nearly 30-year-old agreement in which Southampton County levied a tax on electric bills to pay landfill fees.

“When I sign a resolution, I am of the opinion it binds the town of Capron,” Kitchen told the Board of Supervisors during their Monday meeting. “I’m of the opinion the previous boards did not live up to the resolution.”

Kitchen was joined by mayors from Boykins, Ivor, Courtland and Newsoms, who are opposed to a first-time $200 garbage fee levied on all county households to balance this year’s $52 million budget. The fee will be billed in December.

The county in the mid-1980s levied a $3 fee on residential electric bills to cover the cost of taking garbage to the landfill, according to Boykins Mayor Spier Edwards.

The fee is higher for businesses, said County Administrator Mike Johnson.

The mayors believe their residents should not be charged the $200 garbage fee because they already pay the utility tax. Residents who live in towns and pay a monthly fee for curbside garbage pickup also will have to pay the $200, which is considered a disposal fee, not a collection fee.

Franklin District Supervisor Barry Porter noted that the county subsidizes sewer and water systems in a majority of the towns.

“I represent a district that doesn’t have a town,” Porter said. “Towns get a lot of benefits that my residents pay extra (taxes) for so you can have water and sewer service.”

Porter noted it costs $2 million annually to get rid of garbage and the utility tax brings in $450,000. This year’s tax is expected to generate $490,000, Johnson said.

“Everybody hates it (the $200 fee),” Porter said. “I hate it. The issue is you are asking for special treatment. People in my district are tired of special treatment for the towns.”

Branchville Mayor Harold Futrell Jr. asked supervisors if they would continue to honor the 1984 agreement.

“Is the agreement any good,” Futrell asked. “We’re not trying to get out of anything. We thought we were exchanging our utility tax for trash.”

Porter doesn’t believe the $200 fee violates the 1984 agreement.

“We have limited ways to raise money for services to provide to citizens,” he said. “We could’ve added increases to water and sewage fees. They could’ve gone up $100 a month. We wanted a way to share the burden with the county.”

Courtland Mayor Danny Williams called the $200 garbage fee unfair.

“Courtland picks up its own trash,” Williams said. “We buy fuel, provide manpower and we haul our trash to your site. I do believe in fairness and I don’t think you are being fair.”

Berlin/Ivor District Supervisor Ronnie West asked the mayors to work with the county.

“An agreement is an agreement; 1984 and 2012 are different times,” West said. “You’ve got to work with us. Mayor, I’m sorry.”