District 2 Walker County Commissioner Jeff Burrough again indicated Monday the county is more concerned about cleaning up the county than considering mandatory garbage pickup, indicating citizens have misunderstood their intentions.
The commission on Monday heard a citizen, Jerry Nichols of District 2, say he was not in favor of the idea of mandatory garbage pickup, which has been discussed recently by the commission.
Nichols said he only lived less than 5 miles from a landfill and is on fixed income. "Why should I pay for your garbage fee when I can pay $5 and dump a whole pickup load?" he said, adding many who live in his area do not like it. "I think you're going to cause hatred and more garbage thrown out," he said.
During the commissioner comment time, District 2 Commissioner Jeff Burrough referred back to Nichols' comments. The earlier March 19 meeting was the second meeting in a row Burrough emphasized that he is not focused on raising more money but to just solve the problems with littering and illegal dumping.
He made that point again Monday.
"I think people are reading the newspaper and stuff and generally may have took the wrong idea of what we're trying to do," Burrough said. "We're trying to clean the county up. It has nothing to do with revenue." He said seeing litter and trash on the roadsides has made him "sick." He said commissioners are looking at new cameras to deter illegal dumping and that the Sheriff's Department can help with enforcement when evidence is found.
"To answer your question, they don't think — none of us are for mandatory garbage. What if it was $5 for everybody, for the whole county? We don't know what it takes to manage or do it to yet," Burrough said. "It was just an idea brought up and it got out in the paper, and everyone thinks we're voting on it, and we haven't. We haven't brought it up. All we have been discussing is cleaning this county up."
He offered to speak to Nichols after the meeting to talk about his concerns. A few minutes later, a member of the audience asked if he could speak about the garbage, but Chairman Jerry Bishop asked if the man could wait until after the meeting ended, noting commissioners could talk to him then. The meeting was about to come to a conclusion and the public comment section had occurred at the start of the meeting.
The Daily Mountain Eagle reported that during the March 5 meeting, Burrough asked for the Walker County Solid Waste Department to gather data from other counties concerning mandatory countywide garbage pickup and the fees that might be involved. “I would like to bring it up (at the work session). I haven’t discussed it with anybody,” he said at the time. He later acknowledged at a later meeting he had asked for the information.
It was noted the commission would hold a March 15 work session to discuss that and related litter and illegal dumping issues.
However, commissioners appeared to move slower on the idea at the work session, with Burrough noting people appeared divided on the issue. He said the commission doesn't want to put anything mandatory on anyone and the county needs to do the other programs mentioned. He said some people also have the ability to take garbage to dump at their workplace and some are in low income households who worry about how they would afford such service, although commissioners had noted low income people and the elderly would pay reduced costs or none at all.
The Eagle reported that during the regularly scheduled March 19 commission meeting, "Bishop said, 'Mandatory garbage, it's coming. We're going to vote on it, one way or another. Not today, but it will come up for a vote, and I think it will be helpful. But we can't just stop there .... I can't speak for everybody, but for me, (mandatory service) will probably come to a vote sometime, but it is not what we are headed towards. We are headed to cleaning this county up for economic reasons, for visual reasons, to make our county more attractive. It has nothing to do with revenue, as the revenue has to stay in the Solid Waste Department,' outside the troubled General Fund. 'It doesn't help us with fixing roads. It doesn't help us with some things in the General Fund.'"
Bishop went on to say at the meeting, "By the end of next month, we will have a study of this landfill department. Is it set up to take money to go out into other parts of the county? No. But the mandatory has to come to make it survive, because the county cannot pay to make it survive."
No study from the Solid Waste Department has been released since then. Officials have said in discussions that the county has 7,000 solid waste customers and would add 17,000 to 19,000 customers if mandatory service was started. Officials also noted all the counties around Walker County have gone to mandatory service.
At an April 2 meeting, one citizen who opposed the mandatory garbage idea, Ralph Beavers of the Corner area of Walker County, said he understood a vote on the issue would be held that day. "Well, I'm not the newspaper, sir," Bishop said, speaking over Beavers.