Murfreesboro Council defends yard debris fee

Published 4:28 pm Friday, May 31, 2024

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MURFREESBORO – A few Murfreesboro residents expressed their concerns about the new monthly yard waste fee during the Town Council meeting held on May 21, but the council stood firm on their decision.

As previously reported by the News Herald, the council approved amendments to Murfreesboro’s yard waste ordinance during their April meeting. The amended ordinance included definitions of what yard waste can be collected by the town and where it should be placed for pick-up.

But the ordinance also added a monthly yard waste fee of $7.50 per customer, residential and commercial, which will be included and collected on each customer’s monthly utility bill. The fee was imposed in order to recover the town’s costs for yard waste disposal.

The council unanimously approved the amendments, which will take effect on July 1.

At May’s meeting, three residents spoke during public comments about the monthly fee. Some said they shouldn’t have to pay for a service they didn’t personally use. Another noted that any residences with multiple water bills, such as an apartment, would be paying multiple fees for one yard.

The council didn’t respond immediately, as it’s their policy to save any rebuttal comments for council reports at the end of the meeting. But the topic was mentioned during another item on the agenda.

The company who is responsible for the town’s garbage pickup had notified Murfreesboro that they would be raising their rates by five percent. Mayor Hal Thomas noted that the town would have to their raise rates as well.

Town Administrator Carolyn Brown stated that garbage pickup rates would only increase for customers with multiple carts or a dumpster. They decided to keep the residential single cart rate unchanged, acknowledging that the monthly yard waste fee was already an additional cost increase for customers.

Council member Jay Revelle noted that prices are increasing everywhere, and “the town is not immune to those price increases.”

“We’re doing the best we can not to raise taxes,” Revelle added. “We’re trying to be good stewards of the revenue the town collects.”

The new garbage pickup rates were approved unanimously after a motion from Revelle and a second from James Byerly.

In their remarks at the end of the meeting, several members of the council addressed the yard debris fee.

“We don’t like it any more than you do,” said Berna Stephens, who noted that they couldn’t provide a service for free if the town is being charged for it themselves.

“It’s not something that we wanted to do, but like the others said, it’s something that we had to do,” added Craig Dennis. “We didn’t have a choice about it.”

Council member Mike Bunch likened the fee to a person paying taxes for public schools even though they don’t have any children who attend.

“We live here and have to pay too,” Bunch added.

He also noted that the town must follow state regulations for handling and disposing of yard debris, which cost Murfreesboro thousands of dollars this year.

The News Herald reached out to town officials about the total cost to ensure the debris field stayed in compliance with state regulations. Brown said that cost was $55,525 for chipping debris and hauling it away.

She also provided documentation from the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) dated May 22 which notified the town that their yard waste site had been approved for another year of operation. According to that letter, their site can only process and store up to 6,000 cubic yards of yard waste or less.

NCDEQ’s website lays out additional site requirements which include buffers, fire safety measures, as well as recordkeeping for incoming/outgoing volumes of debris. These kinds of sites are not approved for permanent storage of yard waste, and material must be processed and removed from the site on a regular basis.

Mayor Thomas also emphasized in his closing remarks the need to follow state regulations on yard debris. He said if they came up with another solution, they would look into it. But for now, they will implement the monthly fee beginning in July.