Those living in unincorporated Hall County will be paying $25 more a year for solid waste service on their 2012 tax bill, after a decision at Thursday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting.
Ken Rearden, Hall County Public Works director, said the department has asked for an increase for the past three years to maintain its operations. It’s been operating at a deficit for the past several years, he said.
In fiscal year 2011, the solid waste enterprise fund operated at a loss of $619,534. In fiscal year 2012, it had a loss of $336,337.
In fiscal year 2013, the fund was budgeted to have a profit of $114,718 but excluded depreciation expenses, which are allocated for capital and replacement expenses.
With the increased fee, the first increase since 1999, the department will be able to operate in the black and replace some equipment, including trucks and compactors, and build cells at the landfill. It brings the total annual fee to $75.
“We’ve got a bailer at the recycling center that’s over 20-something years old ... and it’s constantly breaking down,” he said. “And we’re keeping it together and keeping it running, but (the fee increase) will allow us to (replace) that.”
Commissioners Craig Lutz and Ashley Bell dissented on the fee increase, with Bell noting that the county has a request for proposal currently out that could transform solid waste service.
A third party is reviewing bids to run the solid waste division, which include those from the county’s Public Works department as well as private companies. The third party, Mercer Group, is being used since the county itself is making a bid.
“I thought it was premature for us to increase the cost of solid waste before we even get a chance to look at what the other alternatives are,” Bell said Friday. “And, unfortunately, we are only a few weeks away from knowing what those proposals would entail and how they could save us money.”
Bell said he was concerned the increase would put the county at a disadvantage in the bidding process since the goal was to find something less expensive and private companies were aware of that.
“If everybody who put in a bid is trying to spend less money, why would we increase the amount of money we’re willing to spend before we even open the bids and decide if there are feasible alternatives for Hall County?” he said.
Rearden, however, said the county’s bid did include that $25 increase.