Landfill fees debate continues

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2008

WINDSOR – A public comment here Monday night again sparked the flames of a recent debate.

Fortunately, all those present at this meeting of the Bertie County Commissioners were on the same side of the argument.

Jerry Castelloe, who lives just outside of Askewville, came before the commissioners to express concern that he had recently been charged $160 to dump what was termed as C & D (construction and demolition) waste in the East Carolina Environmental (ECE) landfill.

&uot;What’s the deal with the landfill charging… I had read in the newspaper that they were charging $50 a ton now so I expected a little bit, but not this much,&uot; he stated.

Castelloe went on to say that his home had been damaged during the recent tornados and all he was throwing away was the shingles torn from his roof.

The commissioners appeared outraged and agreed on the injustice of the situation.

&uot;We don’t think you should have to pay a dime,&uot; Commissioner Rick Harrell told Castelloe.

Norman Cherry, Chairman of the Commissioners, noted, &uot;We are working with our attorney and we’re in total agreement with you.&uot;

After the meeting, Cherry further stated, &uot;We agree that Bertie County residents should not have to pay tipping fees for the landfill and we have sent a letter to them (Republic Services, who own ECE) arguing our position.&uot;

In that four-page letter, dated May 5, County Attorney Lloyd Smith outlined the reasons why he believes Republic has no legal right to impose charges for Bertie residents dumping waste in the landfill.

&uot;Bertie County rejects ECE and Republic’s interpretation of the Contract and stands firmly upon the clear, unambiguous language of both the Solid Waste Tax, which is permissive, and the free residential disposal provision of the Contract, which is mandatory,&uot; he stated.

Republic’s area president, Drew Isenhour, came before the commissioners in April to inform them his company would henceforth commence charging Bertie residents for waste disposed of at the landfill due to new a North Carolina solid waste tax that goes into effect on July 1.

In his letter to the commissioners in April, he stated, &uot;Republic had not charged for this waste stream for over a decade like we do in our three other public/private landfill partnerships. Unfortunately, we can no longer provide free C & D disposal to Bertie County because of the uncertainly of disposal volumes related to future development and major storms that have impacted Bertie County.&uot;

In the early 1990’s, when the landfill first came to Bertie County, Commissioner Wallace Perry was the Sheriff.

He stated during April’s meeting that he remembers policing meetings held in the county’s boardroom where citizens were upset at the thought of a landfill coming to the county.

&uot;Nobody wanted it to come here then and the only thing that made it even slightly okay for some of those people was the economic benefit and the fact that we could dump trash for free… now we don’t even have that anymore,&uot; he remarked.

In October, the county and Republic Services were negotiating on an expansion of the existing landfill to bring in trash from a larger area, but those negotiations fell through when Republic made an offer and Bertie County turned it down.

Then, just a few months later in January, Republic began charging Bertie citizens to dump C & D waste, something that’s never been done in the 15 years the landfill has been located in the county.

Apparently, despite objections from county officials so far, Republic continues to do so.

Yet the commissioners are apparently not going to go down without a fight.

&uot;We’re not going to take this lying down,&uot; Harrell vowed at the end of the heated discussion during April’s meeting.

At the latest meeting Monday night, that certainly appeared to be true.

&uot;We are asking them (Republic) to refund anyone (Bertie citizens) who has paid since January,&uot; County Manager Zee Lamb stated.

Castelloe concluded, &uot;These poor people who have storm damage, they can’t afford to pay that (cost).&uot;

As of press time Friday, the county had not received a response from the May 5 letter sent to Republic’s attorney.

The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald will have more information on this matter as soon as it becomes available.