Moore County is quadrupling the fee charged at the landfill for recyclable materials, a reflection of higher transportation costs and declining demand for them.
The commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to increase the fee from $25 to $100 a ton effective immediately.
Solid Waste Director Chad Beane told the commissioners that the cost of transporting the materials to facilities that process them have increased dramatically. He said the company that had been hauling the county’s recyclable materials to a recovery facility recently terminated its contract. He said the county has no choice but to increase the fee.
“The recycling market is such that it is a challenge to find a vendor that will accept the material,” he told the board.
Beane said the $25 a ton fee was not enough to cover the county’s costs.
Moore County uses a “single stream” recycling vendor to handle glass, aluminum, plastics and mixed paper waste. Through seven collection sites and the transfer station at the landfill on N.C. 5, all recyclables are collected and compacted prior to hauling, which is more cost-efficient.
For the last few years, municipalities who opt in can also bring their curbside recycling to the county’s transfer station before it is hauled to a materials recovery facility.
Not all local municipalities participate in the program. Southern Pines and Robbins have their own contractors for handling waste, and many of the smaller towns do not offer recycling services at all — instead relying on residents to use the county’s collection sites.
Pinehurst, Aberdeen and Pinebluff haul their materials to the county landfill.
In November, Beane met with officials of those three towns to inform them the the county would be increasing the recycling tipping fee — basically the processing cost for recyclable waste.
New Board Chairman Frank Quis, a former mayor of Southern Pines, said he was pleased Beane met with the three towns to explain the situation.
“I think everyone is aware of the difficult market for recycled materials,” he said before the vote to increase the fee.
In another matter related to the landfill, the commissioners unanimously approved a contract with a company to haul away excess mulch from a “substantial influx” of yard debris for the past several months.
Beane attributed it to the two hurricanes that hit the county in September and October, as well as several other storms. He said about 14,000 tons of leaf and limbs are brought to the landfill each year.
He said the county has received more than 5,000 tons of additional debris in the past few months. He said the excess mulch needs to be hauled away to make room for the normal debris.
Beane said the cost of the contract will not exceed $100,000.
In response to a question from Commissioner Otis Ritter, Beane said the mulch is available to residents for free. But he cautioned that it is not “pristine” or “aesthetically pleasing.”
Also during the meeting, commissioners:
* approved the increase of a quarter-cent in the local sales tax starting next April 1.
The decision was pretty much a forgone conclusion after the board voted to declare its intent to levy the additional tax at its Nov. 20 meeting, which is a state requirement before it can be done.
Voters approved a referendum on the sales tax increase by a margin of 23,171 to 16,158 on Nov. 6.
The quarter-cent increase is expected to generate between $2.5 million and $3.1 million annually, roughly equivalent to 2-3 cents on the property tax rate.
The increase amounts to an additional 25 cents on every $100 of goods purchased, and will not apply to groceries, motor fuels or prescription medications.
The commissioners adopted a resolution earlier this year declaring that all of the revenues from the sales tax increase would be used solely for school construction purposes.
That includes repaying debt on $103 million in bonds approved by voters in May to finance new elementary schools in Aberdeen, Southern Pines and Pinehurst.
In addition, the commissioners are financing the $30 million elementary school under construction on Camp Easter Road through a traditional bank loan. They have also pledged to fund a $15 million project at North Moore High School that includes additional classrooms, an auxiliary gym and other renovations.
The schools have also identified $72 million in needed maintenance, renovation, and repairs throughout the district in the next 20 years.
County Manager Wayne Vest said the N.C. Department of Revenue requires a 90-day notice to businesses before the sales tax increase can take effect and that it must be at the start of a quarter.
“The people have spoken and it’s time for us to go forward,” Commissioner Louis Gregory said.
* approved taking $1.1 million from its capital reserve fund to cover the cost of grading the site for a new elementary school on Morganton Road in Southern Pines that will be financed by the voter-approved $103 million bond issue in May.
Vest said the money will be repaid once bonds are sold next March for the project.
John Birath, executive officer for operations for the school system, told the board that because of the slope in terrain, the grading work will take longer than it did for two other elementary schools now under construction — one on Camp Easter Road near Southern Pines and the other off N.C. 5 in Aberdeen.
He said that seeking the bids to start work early will allow the county “to get ahead” of any increases in costs.
Birath said Sanford Contractors offered the low bid, which was $368,000 less than what had been estimated. He said the company also did the grading for the sites of the two elementary schools under construction and is in a position “to move right on with this project, which is why officials believe it offered “extremely competitive prices.”
Board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Graham said she was “encouraged” to see that the county is saving $368,000 based on what it was estimated to cost.
“That is good news,” she said.
* approved a change to the zoning ordinance to allow adult gaming establishments as a conditional use only in the industrial district.
Planning Director Debra Ensminger told the board that someone recently made a request for that use but officials discovered it was not among the table of allowed uses in the ordinance. Local governments cannot legally prohibit a certain use and must make a provision for it.
By making it a conditional use rather than automatically permitting it in the industrial district, any applications would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The Planning Board voted unanimously Nov. 1 to recommend that the commissioners approve the measure. No one spoke during a required public hearing before the commissioners voted to approve it.
At the start of the meeting, Graham, Otis Ritter and Jerry Daeke were sworn-in for their second terms on the board. All three were uncontested last month in winning re-election to four-year terms in November.
The commissioners then unanimously elected Quis as chairman for the new year and Graham as the vice-chair. She had been chairwoman the last two years. She nominated Quis.
“It’s an honor to have the confidence of my fellow commissioners, and I look forward to serving as chair for this next year,” Quis said.
Louis Gregory, who offered the second to Daeke’s nomination of Graham as vice-chair, said the board has “truly been honored” to have her serve as chairman for the last two years. He said she has “worked tirelessly to balance different points of view on the board in order to get what is right done for our community.”
He said Graham “possesses outstanding character and integrity and is truly a lady.”
“She is a member of a team of five but has earned the respect of all of us,” he said.
Quis said he has learned “a great deal” from Graham these past two years.
“I can say unequivocally she is truly a leader in every respect and a lady,” he said.
After the swearing-in ceremonies and the election of the chair and vice-chair, the board recessed the meeting for a reception. A number of family members and other local officials were on hand.
During the time for commissioners’ comments at the end of the meeting, Daeke said the last four year have been “exciting.”
“We have gotten some good things started,” he said. “I’m anxious to see these good things continue to completion, at least most of them, in the next four years.”
Gregory, looking to Superintendent Bob Grimesey, said the area has “much to be proud of these past few weeks,” with Pinecrest head football coach Chris Metzger winning the national U.S Cellular Most Valuable Coach Award that brought the school a $50,000 donation as well as a $30,000 Samsung technology package.
The board had planned to recognize Metzger during the meeting but he was unable to attend. Gregory, whose grandson plays on the team, said he hopes that can be done at the first meeting in January.
Graham said she appreciated the voters placing their confidence in her by electing her to another four-year term on the board.
“I’m looking forward to seeing some things come to fruition in the next four years,” she said.
She said it was an honor and a privilege to serve as chairwoman the last two years.
“I could not ask for a better staff to work with and I could not ask for a better board of commissioners to work with either,” she said. “I look forward to serving as vice chair, and I look forward to our new leadership with Chairman Quis. I am sure you will do an excellent job. I’m sure you have no idea how much time this is going to take, but I’m also confident you can handle it.”
Ritter said this has been “an exciting” year for both the county and the schools with the passage of the bond issue in May and the quarter-cent sales tax increase in November, as well as the board’s approval of the school board budget without any controversy in June.
“I learned what fully funding our schools means,” he said. “And we did it finally.”
Ritter said it has been nice to see the progress being made on building new schools and that it looks like they will be finished on schedule.
Quis closed by thanking the county staff for all the work it has done to keep things running smoothly this year.
“It’s a good sign when you don’t have a room full of people here questioning what you do,” he said. “We’ve gotten some things accomplished, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We’ve got to keep looking ahead to the future. But I think we are well-prepared for that.”