Published: July 10, 2019
From the desk of Lawrence County Executive TR Williams:
Today I want to begin with an apology.
On June 27, the County Commission approved new fees for the disposal of tires, wood waste, and mattresses/box springs at the Solid Waste Transfer Station. They went into effect July 1, but we failed to publicize those fees and the reason they’re necessary.
Several residents were caught off guard by these charges, and I am truly sorry for that. I also apologize to our Solid Waste employees, who bore the brunt of everyone’s frustration.
So belatedly, let me explain.
Our Solid Waste Department has been losing money about ten years. Before that, we were actually able to build up a fund balance because the market for recyclables was very good.
Then, some of our largest waste cardboard producers starting selling their own recyclables, which was a good business decision for them. Compounding that, prices paid for all recyclables started falling. Solid Waste Director Gary Wayne Hyde says he got as much as $150 per ton for cardboard then, compared to $40 now.
Please remember that recycling saves money even when prices are low. If everything went into the general waste stream, we would be spending a lot more to haul and dispose of it in the Walnut, Mississippi landfill that we use. Our recycling program, which state officials use as an example for other counties, kept an incredible 76% of garbage out of our waste stream last year.
So thanks to our recycling program, the cost of transporting household garbage is covered by your annual solid waste fee. This fee has not changed since the year 2000.
As we planned the 2019-20 budget, we were faced with a $270,000 shortfall in Solid Waste. Our fund balance, which helped cover rising expenses over the past ten years, is gone.
We were able to move some funds into Solid Waste from other areas of the budget, but we cannot do that every year.
Like other departments, it needs to stand on its own, but can’t. It has and will continue to lose money because of costs associated with the disposal of wood waste, bulky furniture, and tires.
For many years, wood waste was not a problem. There was a market for wood chips, and a local man agreed to grind ours at no charge if he could have the chips to sell. The market no longer exists, and he went out of business.
As we determined the best way to dispose of wood waste, and then find a new wood grinding service, a huge amount of it built up. The process of grinding it and hauling it away got started this spring, and has so far cost $200,000. It’s not finished, and more wood waste comes in every day.
We are now charging $8 to residents and landscaping businesses that bring truck and trailer loads of brush, tree limbs, compost and leaves to the transfer station. The City of Lawrenceburg and businesses that bring those materials in large volume are being charged $36.85 a ton. Pallet disposal is $1 each; large loads will be charged at the ton rate.
Bulky furniture is hauled to the Walnut, Mississippi landfill but costs Lawrence County more because it needs extra space in the trucks that take it there. We are charging $5 each for mattresses and box springs, and are considering charges for sofas and recliners as well.
Previous charges for tire disposal were $1.25 for passenger tires, $4 for semi-trucks, and $5.50 for tractor tires. These rates have been raised to $3 per passenger tire, $8 for semis, $12 for tractor tires and $30 for heavy equipment tires.
Liberty Tire comes to Lawrence County to pick up used tires, which they recycle. Rather than buying the tires, they charge us by the pound for their service. The lower rates we were charging didn’t begin to cover our costs.
Additional charges to dispose of these items have been discussed by the County Commission for several years. This year’s shortfall convinced us that something needed to be done. We discussed the possibility of raising everyone’s solid waste fee, but the fact is that everyone doesn’t bring those items to the transfer station. It didn’t seem fair to make everyone pay for a service that only a few use.