Bedford supervisors debate decals for solid waste as way to enforce illegal dumping

BEDFORD — As the Bedford County Board of Supervisors consider long-term solid waste costs and challenges, the potential return of decal stickers for county residents accessing solid waste disposal sites received heavy discussion at a work session Monday.

The board received a staff report on two cost comparisons for solid waste, one for transferring solid waste outside of the county and the other on expanding the landfill. The transfer option is estimated at $106.8 million over a 20-year cycle while the landfilling option is projected at $148.2 million over the same period, according to county documents.

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Employees prepare to dump and plow trash onto the landfill on Monday, July 22, 2019 at Bedford County Landfill.

Neither option addresses the county’s existing $2.3 million annual deficit in solid waste operations, the report states. The board agreed by consensus during the work session to wait until a new assistant county administrator, a position currently being advertised, is filled in coming weeks to get more staff oversight and play a major role in the planning process.

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Meanwhile, a decal program is being considered as an enforcement mechanism at solid waste collection sites where illegal dumping from out-of-county residents, particularly at the Forest center on U.S. 221 in close proximity to the Gables of Jefferson Commons neighborhood.

District 4 Supervisor John Sharp said he is all for the decal but not a $50 sticker fee. He said $1.50 price should be enough to cover the costs.

“This isn’t about getting revenue from the citizens,” Sharp said. “I don’t know any of us who had that intention.”

County Administrator Robert Hiss said a $50 fee was an option presented at the committee level and recommended by staff to enact.

“It’s recommended as an enforcement mechanism, not a revenue-generator,” Hiss said of the county potentially reinstating decals for solid waste centers.

District 6 Supervisor Bob Davis said he supports bringing back decals, noting county employees as solid waste collection sites can attest those places are being abused by people who shouldn’t be bringing their trash there.

“I’ve had people in Lynchburg say ‘well, where else am I supposed to take it?’” Sharp said, adding: “Not in Forest [site].”

One area the decal system doesn’t address is unstaffed and ungated solid waste sites, of which there are about a dozen throughout the county, Hiss said.

District 7 Supervisor Tammy Parker noted the issues at the Forest collection site and that also is an area the new assistant county administrator, once hired, could look into finding ways to mitigate.

“I’m not sure at this point that decals across the entire county are the solution,” Parker said.

Davis said the decal is the best way short-term to resolve issues of unauthorized trash dumping at the landfill and collection sites.

“Let’s get this wrapped … and over with and approve these decals so that we can stop wasting money and then maybe somewhere down the road someone will come up with a better idea,” Davis said.

Sharp added he feels the measure should have been enacted a long time ago.

“I miss my county sticker,” Sharp said. “I was proud to have that sticker on my car.”

Sharp said he is sick and tired of the way solid waste sites are being abused.

“It infuriates me because I think it’s costing us $100,000 or more per year,” Sharp said.

He said considering the $2.3 million annual deficit and the landfill expansion options projected roughly $2 million per year, if the board goes in that direction of operating the landfill long-term.

“There are steps we can take to address it, so maybe we can continue to operate a landfill, maybe we don’t have to keep wasting money,” Sharp said. “It wouldn’t shock me if it’s a quarter of a million dollars in savings.”

He said whatever the county decides to do, whether decals or security cameras, will save money. Sharp also suggested decals not becoming an annual measure or being issued every other year or when a new vehicle is registered.

“It doesn’t have to be all that expensive,” Sharp said. “It’s like we want it to be expensive, so we won’t do it.”

Edgar Tuck, the board’s chair, said his concern with decals is centered on enforcement, particularly in the Smith Mountain Lake, where so many people who live outside the county most of the year come to stay. The lake area also is a hotbed for short-term rentals that draw in a lot of visitors, he said.

“It would be a nightmare to enforce,” Tuck said of the lake area.

District 1 Supervisor Mickey Johnson also expressed reservations.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a popular thing with our citizens,” Johnson said.

Sharp said he doesn’t think anyone will care once they realize it is a cost benefit, adding most residents would say “heck yeah.”

“Ninety percent of Bedford County residents would say ‘sign me up’ if this is going to save me 10% on my tax bill,” Sharp said.

Justin Faulconer, (434) 473-2607

“Ninety percent of Bedford County residents would say ‘sign me up’ if this is going to save me 10% on my tax bill.”

John Sharp, District 4 supervisor

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