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Claxton Council Shoots Holes in County’s Proposal for Consolidated Convenient Site Center with User Fee

Claxton City Council members appeared apprehensive and vocally expressed concerns to County Administrator Casey Burkhalter during a presentation the idea of a consolidated convenient site center Monday night at the regular council meeting.

Claxton City Council members appeared apprehensive and vocally expressed concerns to County Administrator Casey Burkhalter during a presentation the idea of a consolidated convenient site center Monday night at the regular council meeting.

Mayor Terry Branch told council members that he joined Burkhalter, Claxton Code Enforcement Officer Harold Rogers, and AllGreen representative Sam Sullivan in a series of meetings recently to discuss possibly working together to create a ‘state of the art recycle center’ which would be funded through the city residents and the county residents.’

Burkhalter told council members that the idea came about on the county side in an effort to increase efficiency and in response to the increase in items being dumped. A consolidated convenience site would mean a manned site for all users, which would ultimately control what is dumped in various containers – a problem that has placed a financial burden on both the city and the county.

Burkhalter explained that the city’s current site in Claxton and the county’s site in Hagan are only 2.97 miles apart and would not create a burden for users to travel to a single site. “It makes a lot of sense to collaborate instead of putting all of our resources at two different sites, especially with costs rising for both of us,” he said.

The Plan

The center would be funded by a user fee attached to every property in the amount of $20 per year, which would fund the operations and the manpower. A plan without manned sites, which Burkhalter says increases costs on the back end for sorting and disposal of wrong materials, would be an $8 annual user fee. Currently, the City of Claxton underwrites the cost of the center in the city limits but people in the county and even those from outside the county use the center because it is not manned.  The City is then solely responsible for disposing of and transporting the materials. The costs come out of the annual budget.

Based on a spreadsheet provided by Burkhalter, the proposal would entail a $100,000 budget for year one and an $80,000 estimate for the years following. The reduction is a result in a $20,000 capital investment in year one for a handy house at the convenient center.

The site would have a closed compactor for household garbage, a recycle compactor, and a number of sorting bins.

The site would be manned at all times, which is the bulk of the costs, and employees at the site would be responsible for keeping the site clean, mowing the grass, and directing the public of where to dispose of various items. Mayor Branch said the city has to pay overtime to workers to open and close the site on the days it is open currently and Burkhalter said this would free up those employees while relieving costs.

The county would be the fiscal agent and would be responsible for collecting the user fees annually.

Burkhalter said there are ‘a lot of unknowns’ in the process and the budget because the county has never been in the recycling business and they’re going off of limited data.

You can see the breakdown in cost below:

Claxton Evans Consolidated Convenience Site Proposal 2018

Burkhalter said Claxton was the first stop and he had not yet contacted Hagan, Bellville, or Daisy, but suggested a partnership to hold a series of workshops to discuss the details in more depth and to get public input.

Councilmember Pushback

Councilwoman Lisa Perry asked how renters and commercial business would be affected by the user fee and Burkhalter said the fee would be assessed on residential property by the Tax Assessor’s Office. He also said the site would not be able to accomodate commercial businesses that show up with a trailer full of things to dispose and/or recycle and would be redirected to a landfill or other dumping site.

Councilwoman Tina Hagan voiced concerned over having manned sites with sorting recycling bins when the trend seems to be moving to single containers hauled off and sorted by recycling companies off-site. Burkhalter told council members that unmanned sites continuously have a problem with items dumped that shouldn’t be dumped, which is why there is a focus on manned sites.

Councilman Dean Cameron asked why city residents would shift to a $20 user fee when they’re not currently paying anything now. Burkhalter reiterated that the city is paying 100% of the costs for the current site in the city limits that serves the city, county, and people who dispose illegally. Cameron asked Burkhalter how many sites were closed in the county, to which Burkhalter replied, “three,” none of which were manned.

There was no mention of a millage rate rollback to account for the cost savings – which is about $30,000 annually for the City of Claxton – if the council adopted the user fee.

City Attorney Bill Callaway interjected his own opinion during the discussion to ask “What makes you think people will use them?” Branch said education would be the best answer.

Councilwoman Hagan said the ideal option would to instead move to a second polycart solely for recycling because people won’t drive to a site to dump trash. Councilwoman Perry echoed her sentiment, saying the elderly and widowed women aren’t going to use it and suggested that they needed to ‘re-think it.’

Branch replied, “A lot of people pay for services they never use,” which prompted the discussion on a per tonnage, weight-based option for the convenience center. Burkhalter said numbers would need to be reworked to have that discussion so it could be done on an estimated cost basis.

Councilman Larry Anderson asked Burkhalter if the county had an alternate plan if the city council chose not to partner for this site.

Burkhalter said the discussion was just a beginning stage for ‘understanding’ and invited council members to attend the next Commission meeting, set for September 18th, to discuss at more length.

No action was taken by the council as the presentation was for informational purposes only. Councilman Risher Willard was not present at the meeting.

You can watch the meeting below. The discussion begins at the 7:00 mark.

Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Gary Rieder

    September 18, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    With the convenience sites closed for a year, why the sudden push to re-open one? We have a newly elected commissioner that proposed a viable plan before his campaign began. Is the rush to make sure that he doesn’t have input in solving the problem?

    Nothing like a team that works together.

  2. Avatar

    Deniselynch

    September 18, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    The county and cities need to be a team. We need a recycling center that actually recycles instead of taking the recyclables to the landfill. I have heard through several reliable sources thT is what is happening.

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