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County revisits community clean-up

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By Jimmie Earls

Although a plan is currently in place to help with the problem of bulky item disposal in Washington County, county officials say there might be alternatives for future pick-ups. But in the meantime, some residents are finding their own ways of ridding themselves of bulky items, and those items don’t always find their way to the county’s CD&D transfer station.

“I was for this program long ago, and I voted the way I felt, and I still will,” said Washington County District 3 Magistrate Hal Goode. “If you look at what we’ve done on the solid waste committee, Greg Simms and myself, we sat down with (Washington County) Judge-Executive (John) Settles and we reviewed what we have spent in previous county-wide clean-ups, from 2007 and 2008. What we’ve been able to see from the revenue we received from metal sales, after we accounted for expenses without labor costs included, we actually made a little profit. The labor accounts for 70 to 72 percent of the cost, and that’s with the county road crew. History has shown that in ‘07 and ‘08 we were able to be on the plus side.”

Goode recently proposed to the fiscal court his idea of having the county-wide clean-up every other year.

“I think we can do it every other year and still keep up with our road maintenance, if we can be aggressive and creative in getting the metal and recyclables that we get from the spring clean-up to help ease the financial burden on the county,” Goode said.

He went on to mention a comment from one of his constituents who was willing to bring her bulky items to the transfer station, but had to wait for her son to get a break from college to come in and help her unload her items.

“The way my area is, some of my district can be from seven to eight miles away from the demolition and debris landfill to 18 to 20 miles away from it,” added Goode. “To some people, it’s a hardship to try to find something to put the stuff in and get it to town.”

“The vote that we took was just for one year,” said Settles. “It wasn’t an ordinance saying that we would never do it again. Hal did the legwork and pencil-pushing, and came up with some figures that seem pretty accurate. There doesn’t seem to be anyone against having a clean-up again, so I think we’ll definitely consider it. I’ve had calls both ways. Some think it’s great that we’re doing this because they don’t have to leave their stuff laying in the yard killing their grass. I’ve had other people say that they thought this was a wonderful service and they wish the county would continue with the free pick-up. A couple of people have said that they don’t have the means to haul the stuff. I think it’s a definite possibility that it could be resurrected next year.”

Settles said it typically takes the county road crew anywhere from eight to 10 weeks to complete the county-wide clean-up.

“That’s a lot of tiles that could be replaced, a lot of gravel shouldering that could have been done, or limbs that could be cut, especially coming out of the winter,” added Settles. “We found that in years when we did the spring clean-up, we had some gravel roads that got into some horrible condition because we didn’t get out and put the gravel on and grade it because we were doing the spring clean-up. Even though it may not cost that much to do the bulky item pickup, there are some side effects that factor into that cost.”

Some solutions the county has tried in the past include leaving a trailer or dumpster at a specific location for a few days and having people drop off their stuff. The problem with that method was that after the specified time expired for drop-offs, people would continue to dump bulky items after the trailer or dumpster had been removed.

“We tried that several years ago,” added Settles. “There are some problems with that, like finding a public space or a private space that someone will allow us to use. Then, once that spot is used, the thought that it is a site of collection kind of lingers with a lot of people. The last time that we did it, we had to go back multiple times and clean up some spots. At the end of the clean-up, people were still bringing stuff to that site.”

Some revenue is still being generated by the transfer station as contractors are still being charged to dump their debris.

Another solution of getting these items to the transfer station would involve people reaching out to their neighbors and seeing if they can share a load. If you are preparing a load for the transfer station and have some room, if you know an elderly person who needs to get rid of something, perhaps you could lend them a hand.”

Washington County Solid Waste Coordinator George Ann Palmer said she was not aware of any illegal dumping in the county, but if anybody spots an illegal dump, she asked that they report it.

For now, the county will continue offering the free drop-off for county residents at the transfer station.

In other county news

At its April 12 meeting, the Washington County Fiscal Court approved a one-percent across-the-board pay raise for all county employees who are not paid by the state.

“We looked at our total salaries, counting elected officials and all employees and staff, and for 2009 it was $1,163,467. In 2008-09, there was a 4.08 percent increase in salaries. In fiscal year 2009-10, it was one percent, which was slightly above the cost of living. This year, 2010, the cost of living increase is 2.72 percent.”

A 2.72 percent increase would have cost the county $31,673. A one-percent increase will cost $11,644.67. County magistrates froze their salaries at a previous meeting. The salary committee recommended the one-percent increase.

Magistrate Billy Riney motioned to accept the one-percent increase with a second by Morris Sweazy. The court voted unanimously to approve and accept.