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‘Free’ carts destined for pick-up

JACKSON – Cough it up. Northampton County residents who have multiple trash carts but pay for only one will be doing just that in the coming months.

On Monday morning, the Northampton County Commissioners directed Public Works Director Billy Martin to pick up all trash carts that weren’t being paid for by the citizens who have them.

The decision came after Martin revealed that a study showed the county could be losing as much as $103,000 a year because of the extra trash carts.

Martin said that during the week of June 29, the cart count in Northampton County was 11,185. During the week of July 6, it dropped to 10,821. He said the drop was, he believed, due to vacation and due to the fact that citizens knew the carts were being counted.

“Presently, the tax department is billing for 10,600 carts,” Martin said. “This being the case, during the week of the 29th, there were 585 carts that should not have been serviced.”

According to Martin, the county currently pays $14.77 per month for each cart. When multiplied by 12 months and the extra 585 carts, that resulting cost is $103,686.40, he added.

“My first recommendation is that during garbage collection, we send out two men from the Solid Waste Department with the panel truck,” he said. “The men will have addresses as to which homes have multiple carts and are not paying for them. They will make sure the carts are emptied, then load them into the panel truck and return them to Waste Industries.”

His secondary recommendation was to bill all of those who had multiple containers, but paid for only one and let them have the opportunity to pay for them before they were picked up.

Martin said the problem had existed for some time.

“We’ve known the problem was there, we just have to fix it,” he said.

Commissioner James E. Hester said his first reaction was to go with option two, allowing citizens to pay for the trash carts if they so desired and then picking up the ones who chose not to pay.

Commission Chairman Robert V. Carter said he had concerns.

“My only concern is that between sending the bill and possibly receiving payment, the county will still be footing the bill,” he said.

Martin said there were instances where, for example, one single-wide mobile home had five containers and no other residences around them.

“Where are they getting them,” Commissioner Hester asked.

Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins said there were a number of possibilities. They included a new renter coming into a home and starting their own account, which would trigger a new cart being sent even if the previous renter left one.

He said Waste Industries has also been willing to provide multiple carts for events such as family reunions, but the county had not always requested they be picked back up.

“Frankly, we’ve dropped the ball somewhat,” he said.

Jenkins said the audit that was just completed was the first one since 1993 and said it likely needed to be done every five years.

Commissioner Virginia D. Spruill said she liked the idea of the first recommendation.

After the discussion, Commissioner Hester said he felt like the first plan was the best as well because it would allow the county to drop their costs immediately.

Martin urged commissioners to be patient as he said the process would take several months.

“We run garbage pickup in Northampton County five days a week,” he said. “It will be a drawn-out process.”

Jenkins reminded the board that County Finance Officer Dot Vick had told the board that she believed it was costing the county as much as $70,000 for carts that had not been properly paid for.

Commissioner Carter told Martin that he believed he had received the consensus of the board. That was to proceed with the first recommendation.