Council approves policy allowing property owners to decline city's solid waste services
BY HALEY JONES
The Statesville City Council has approved a policy to allow property owners to decline city solid waste services and contract with a private service provider.
Under the policy change approved Monday night, residents who go with a private hauling company will not have to pay the city’s annual $120 solid waste fee. To date, 254 out of the 8,254 residential properties billed for the solid waste fee have opted out of city services, according to city officials.
Although council members agreed on the opt-out provision, they could not agree on how to handle the billing in the future. For the 2017-2018 fiscal year, city property owners received a $120 fee on their annual tax bills, which were mailed last week.
Finance Director Ralph Staley advised council members that adding the fee to the annual tax bill was the best way to collect the money. Adding $10 to the monthly utility bills is also an option.
Council members voiced some concerns about the monthly billing option because some Statesville residents – those who do not receive water and electric services from the city -- do not receive a utility bill. Others suggested generating a separate monthly bill for the sanitation fee.
Staley said the current method seemed to serve the city and residents best.
“We had a choice to have a very effective collection method that was tax deductible or a way that was more risky for the city’s (collection) and not tax-deductive for residents,” Staley said. “When we looked at those different things, the best alternative was to put (the fee) on the property tax.”
The need for an opt-out policy was brought to the council’s attention after the city attorney received an inquiry from a property owner’s attorney, questioning the residential property owner’s option to contract with a private hauler for solid waste services in lieu of being charged the city’s $120 solid waste fee.
City Attorney Leah Messick informed the council that state statute requires residents have the option to contract with a private provider if a fee is required for city sanitation services.
Councilman Jap Johnson continued to criticize the policy, worrying that it would result in white goods being left in the street and debris being pushed into yards serviced by the city Sanitation Division.
Property owners who opt out will have all city sanitation services ceased, including collection and disposal of yard waste, loose leaves, bulky items, white goods and all other solid waste services.
“I don’t think there was much thought going in to making this policy to start with,” Johnson said. “All these deals that we do, it’s all against the poorest people in this town. It doesn’t make any sense and then (we) say we’re concerned with the citizens of Statesville.”
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Johnson offered a rebuttal to those claims.
Raising the property tax rate by 2.5 cents would generate the same amount of money as the sanitation fee, Michael Johnson said. But if property values increased, property owners would end up paying more than the $120 sanitation fee, he explained.
Another suggestion was to let residents decide how to be billed for sanitation services during the next fiscal year, an idea that Staley called “an administrative nightmare.”
Despite that comment, Staley said the option could be offered.
“It is my understanding from the (N.C.) School of Government that no other municipality gives a choice,” Staley said.
Council members will continue to discuss the best method of billing in the coming year.
The policy reads as follows:
- The property owner must sign a document acknowledging that owners have reviewed the policy and that they understand the process and requirements that come with declining solid waste services from the City.
- The property owner must also submit a copy of a contract for solid waste services at the address(es) in question. The contract must be for the fiscal year time period of July 1 to June 30, signed by a company in the business of providing solid waste disposal.
- The request for cancelling solid waste services and supporting documentation must be received by the Statesville Public Works Director by June 30 of each year.
If the request is granted, then the City will retrieve any City-issued garbage and recycling roll-out carts assigned to the location(s) in question, and will no longer provide garbage and recycling collection. Collection and disposal of yard waste, currently provided by the City, will also cease.
The $120 solid waste fee will also be removed from the property owner’s annual tax bill for the specified location(s).
The Public Works Department will verify with the private solid waste hauler on a quarterly basis that the service contract is still in place. If no longer in place, the City solid waste fee will be reinstated, services will resume, and the pro rata (remaining portion) of the annual fee will be charged to the property owner. The property owner will also be required to adhere to City solid waste service regulations, including container placement and debris at curbs.
If the property owner wants to resume city solid waste services, after a cancellation, then the remaining portion of the $120 annual fee must be paid prior to City services resuming. This option will only be available at the start of each fiscal year. Requests received mid-year will not be implemented until the start of the following fiscal year.