County recycling hits legal snag, heads to legislature

County recycling hits legal snag, heads to legislature
June 08
04:00 2017

Returning curbside recycling service to the unincorporated parts of the county has hit a legal snag that’ll require N.C. General Assembly action and delays implementation of the program to next year.

Forsyth County’s curbside pickup subscription service for unincorporated households ended this year after a second provider didn’t renew its contract. After many calls requesting the service return, commissioners are exploring mandatory universal curbside recycling service for unincorporated households, which those homeowners will pay for on their annual property tax bill.

It’s that aspect of implementation that Minor Barnette, director of Forsyth County’s environmental assistance and protection office, found might be an issue.

“I made a disappointing and unexpected discovery,” said Barnette.

Barnette said that the state statute is unclear if counties have the right to charge for collecting recyclables. County lawyers, representatives of the state’s environmental department and professors with the UNC School of Government concurred.

“There’s no clear authority for us to do that,” said Assistant County Attorney Gordon Watkins.Watkins said the county has a change to the statute that would apply only to Forsyth County to clearly give it the authority to charge for recycling. It’s been forwarded to Rep. Donny Lambeth, with the intention of having it added to the state budget the General Assembly is currently working on. It’s unpredictable when the state budget will pass. Last year’s was signed into law in July, while it took until September to finalize the budget in 2015.

Barnette said that this will push implication of universal recycling back to January 2018. He said while Orange County does charge a recycling fee in its unincorporated areas, he didn’t think it was prudent for Forsyth County to risk a potential lawsuit over an unclear statute when the service is implemented. Barnette said if the legal fix doesn’t make it into the state budget, the service would be delayed until the county could get General Assembly action.

The later start date will also give the county time to figure out how to handle the administration of the recycling and accurately gauge what fee it’ll be charging unincorporated households to cover that cost. The county will handle billing, a website for the service and will also be fielding calls and complaints about it, including requests for carts that’ll be provided by the hauler.

If it begins in January, the fee for the service will appear on the tax bill that’ll go out in July 2018.

Currently, staff is doing due diligence on bids to provide the service.  The lowest bid was North Davidson Garbage Company, which said it could provide the service while charging households $2.47 a month, or $29.64 annually, which wouldn’t include the county’s administrative fee.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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