The Board of Aldermen favor charging a single, countywide fee to customers for recycling services and solid-waste convenience centers.
Orange County Solid Waste Director Gayle Wilson presented the board with two options – a flat fee or a two-part fee with different rates for urban and rural residents. The options were developed by an advisory group that started meeting in August. The group has two leaders each from Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Orange County, plus one representative each from the university and UNC Health Care.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners formed the advisory group in June to talk about the county’s solid waste programs and how to pay for them, and to develop a new agreement among local governments.
Elected officials from the county, Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough will discuss both options March 26 at an Assembly of Governments meeting.
All four governments have to agree on a single option, preferably by the end of April, Wilson told the Orange County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night. The changes would go into effect July 1.
Attorneys agree state law will allow either option, Wilson said. Orange County dropped two of three previous fees that paid for the program after a 2012 Cabarrus County case raised questions about the county’s authority to collect those fees.
The county kept its basic, $47 fee and levied a separate convenience center fee based on where a property owner lives and the type of home. Solid waste reserve funds are being used this year to pay for curbside and multifamily recycling collection.
The first proposed option would charge $94 a year to property owners and apartment dwellers who live in town, and $118 a year to rural property owners and residents. The fee would not apply to undeveloped land or UNC properties.
Alderwoman Bethany Chaney said the difference is artificial in this case and “doesn’t reflect our values as a county.”
“To ask them (rural residents) to pay more so that they can get the service that the rest of us already have doesn’t seem to be fair,” she said. “A great deal of our rural areas are prevented from being denser than they are. I’m not buying that the urban-rural split (in fees) makes sense.”
The second option is to charge a flat $103 a year to property owners countywide. The fee charged to owners of apartment complexes would be multiplied by how many apartments they own and charged to renters through their landlords.
That raises concerns about the impact on low-income apartment residents, Alderwoman Jacquie Gist said.
“I’m concerned about the low-income apartments being charged,” she said. “It’s so expensive to be poor.”
Landlords also should not be able to charge their residents for recycling services and make money from it, she said. Some apartment residents already are charged for water usage by third-party, out-of-state companies, she said, instead of getting a bill directly from the Orange Water and Sewer Authority.
The aldermen previously have expressed concerns about water-bill price gouging.
“We want to be on the lookout for landlords doing these things,” Alderwoman Randee Haven-O’Donnell said.
The county has been billing for recycling services for several years, Wilson said, and hasn’t received any complaints about price gouging. Low-income residents also can take advantage of a county subsidy that helps pay their recycling bill, he said.