Orange County takes recycling franchise off table

tgrubb@newsobserver.comApril 10, 2013 

  • What’s Next

    A public hearing will be held April 23, but residents won’t notice any changes before July 1, 2014.

— The Orange County Board of Commissioners killed a controversial franchise proposal and narrowed the options for handling recycling and solid waste Tuesday night.

“I would like to take the franchise option off the table,” Commissioner Penny Rich said. “I don’t get any positive feeling from anyone that we’ve spoken to, (or from) any of the hundreds of emails that we’ve gotten; the petition certainly doesn’t put that option on the table.”

The online petition – chn.ge/10SYT55 – had 64 signatures Tuesday night asking the county to continue the local recycling program.

The commissioners unanimously voted to consider:

• A solid waste management authority, similar to the Orange Water and Sewer Authority, operated by an independent board in partnership with at least one town. The county would drop the 3R fees: a $37 basic fee, plus a convenience center and – for curbside service eligible customers – a collection service fee.

• A countywide solid waste tax district or a limited rural district in areas eligible for curbside service. The commissioners could decide whether to keep the 3R basic fee, who would pay the tax and if it would be better to start small, expanding to other rural areas later.

One penny in Orange County property taxes generates roughly $1.6 million. The county’s 2011-12 recycling program budget was roughly $4.6 million.

• Keep the $37 basic 3R fee for everyone, but let rural residents use convenience centers. Leave urban and multifamily recycling to the towns.

The debate over Orange County’s recycling program follows the N.C. Supreme Court’s Lanvale decision last year that said local governments only have the authority that the legislature gives to them. County officials said the state doesn’t give them the authority to levy the 3R fees.

Before making a decision, the commissioners said they want more information about the benefits and the financial and practical costs of each option.

They also want to talk with leaders in Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough.

“I’m convinced that if we don’t have a discussion with the towns in the beginning and come to an agreement or an understanding … then we are going to end up with a fragmented system, and a fragmented system will not work as well as what we’ve got today,” Commissioner Earl McKee said.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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