Removing the barriers

Published 10:16 am Friday, March 8, 2013

WINDSOR – One good way to have more involvement in a worthwhile program is to remove the financial barriers.

That was the thinking here Monday when the Bertie County Board of Commissioners took action on a program that helps property owners dispose of abandoned mobile homes.

Bertie Planning and Inspections Director Traci White provided some background information on that program. She said the county received a grant in 2010 from the state

that assists in cleaning up abandoned mobile homes that are often left to clutter the landscape. The grant offers $1,500 per single wide mobile home to have it removed and the parts recycled.

White said Bertie has been given two extensions on the grant since 2010 and the time is near to request another one if that was the direction the commissioners wanted to take.

“I need to know exactly where you would like this program to go,” White said. “The state indicates that as long as the grant money is available, we can continue to request extensions.”

Currently the program calls for the property owner to pay a $300 fee upon signing a contract to have the abandoned home removed. The property owner is also required to pay the tipping fees at the BertieCounty landfill for debris in excess of eight tons.

“We use that $1,500 to pay the (tipping) fees for the first eight tons and to pay the contractor fees (for removal of the structure),” White noted. “This is not a revenue maker for the county.”

White said with the commissioners’ blessings, she felt another extension by the state would be approved for one year.

“Maybe you want to look at revamping the program,” she said. “We’ve had very little interest in it; we’ve only used it on four homes in three years. We’ve sent out 50 letters to the owners of properties that we’ve identified with abandoned mobile homes on it. The property owners will contact us when they get the letter. Those that show some interest (in the program) lose interest when they find out they have to pay the $300 plus the tipping fee at the landfill. The costs are what has been prohibiting participation in the program.”

White said other counties require a property owner to remove an abandoned mobile home. BertieCounty has no such requirement.

“If we do that, the county would have to commit to going in and removing the property if the property owner did not, which would be an expense up front to the county,” White stressed. “To recoup that expense, sometimes you have to put a lien on the property.”

Commission Chairman Wallace Perry said during the board’s recent retreat, the county’s contract with the firm operating the landfill was explained in detail.

“In our opinion, the owners of those properties are not supposed to pay landfill fees,” Perry stated.

“As long as it’s residential waste; even if it’s carried there by a contractor representing a (county) resident, there’s to be no fee,” added Commissioner Ron Wesson. “We need to meet with the landfill owner to make sure they understand our position. They may not agree, but we believe we’re on firm ground in the terms of our contract.”

Wesson continued, “It certainly was the intention of that contract to allow residential construction waste to be accepted without fee, no limitations. We will address that.”

White asked about the costs already incurred by the county while accepting the responsibility to pay the tipping fees for the first eight tons.

Wesson wanted to know if the state mandated the property owners to share in the removal costs.

“They do not, but they recommend it,” White said. “At the time we did the solid waste management plan amendment to improve the program, that’s when the fees were set.”

Wesson suggested waiving the fee as part of the plan’s policy in an effort to attract more participation in the program.

“I believe that (will help),” White said, as the remainder of the board members concurred with that thought.

“We certainly ought to try that; we could always change our mind if it depletes the (program) funds too quickly,” Wesson said.

White pointed out that most of the contractor’s fees in this particular program were coming in at right around the $1,500 mark, an amount that the state does reimburse.

“This program is all about educating the public what’s available to help them remove these abandoned homes,” Commissioner Rick Harrell said.

“My opinion would be to advertise the program,” Perry noted.

Commissioner John Trent made a motion to allow White to move forward with seeking an extension of the state grant for this program. That motion was approved without objection.

The board also agreed to look at waving the $300 fee and to meet with the landfill owner to address their contractual agreement with the county in regards to not charging a county resident any tipping fee for residential construction waste.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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