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Landfill revenue still not meeting projections

June 10, 1997

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer

Dumping at Washington County's landfill has increased in the past five months but revenue continues to come in under budget, Solid Waste Department Director Bob Davenport told the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday.

Davenport said tonnage dumped at the county's sanitary and rubble landfills has been higher than last year for the past several months, although use still is well below the level it was at before the County Commissioners raised landfill fees.

The projected revenue deficit for the landfills is $690,555 compared to a $900,000 deficit projected last December, said Finance Director Debra Bastian.

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The deficit will be covered by $318,000 in project savings at the Hancock Landfill and $372,000 in savings on Resh Sanitary Landfill capping and operational costs.

County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said the landfills are losing $2.9 million a year in dumping fee revenue because the commissioners raised landfill fees. Tonnage had dropped about 40 percent, but now is inching its way back up.

Bastian had projected earlier this year that county taxpayers could have to pay nearly $5 million through the year 2003 to cover operating and capital budget shortfalls associated with the county landfills if trash tonnage didn't increase and projected costs didn't drop.

Davenport agreed that the landfill was losing revenue, but said that the county also saved some money from the drop in trash tonnage because of a delay in construction of new landfill space and savings on other costs.

Bowers said the county needs a plan to get back at least half of the lost business. Davenport said the Planning Department should study franchising of county trash pickup. Under franchising, the commissioners would set up different trash districts and have companies bid on curbside trash pickup. The contracts would require that the trash be brought to the county landfill.

Commissioner R. Lee Downey said the Planning Department should check into whether state legislation would be needed to allow the county to franchise the trash service.

One problem the county faces is that if too much trash is dumped at the landfill, the landfill area in use will fill up before new ones could be constructed.

The commissioners voted 4-0, with Commissioner James R. Wade absent, to keep sanitary landfill fees at $45 a ton. Bowers said he was voting to keep the rate from increasing, and said he was still in favor of lowering the fees.

The commissioners also approved a $2.50 minimum charge at the rubble landfill. Davenport said it would help speed up the process for all customers because small haulers wouldn't have to be weighed.

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