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MY WORD: Shelby County's trash facility is needed

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By Hugh Harris

Our local newspaper has had a negative approach in its reporting of several issues that relate to special taxing districts – especially the 109 Solid Waste Board.

I have a background in environmental protection issues having spent over 20 years working for the Office of General Counsel of the Energy and Environmental Cabinet as an environmental enforcement specialist and paralegal. My opinion regarding the Shelby County 109 Solid Waste Board is opposite that of our local newspaper.

I worked on over 800 mostly waste cases along with water, air and underground storage tank cases. Shelby County Fiscal Court is responsible to make sure that a solid waste management plan is submitted to the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet. The responsibility to manage the solid waste program in Shelby County was given to the 109 Board established by the county.

If they do not properly carry out their duties, then the state can take over. Under state law, the board could have taxed as much as 10 cents per $100 of property valuation. However, they have set the tax at only 3.5 cents per $100 valuation.

I am sure that when the board was established, the county knew what liability the county could incur with the management of two landfills without any additional money. They also knew that in the future they would have to provide for the disposal and recycling of solid waste for the county.

The cost of closing and maintaining a closed landfill according to state and federal law could run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. A lot of counties cannot maintain their landfills without cutting other services.

Garbage collection companies do not deal with yard waste, tree limbs, tires, hazardous waste, batteries and rocks. Also, if a person is cleaning out their garage or attic, they need to have a place to take their trash. At one time, trash that was generated by farmers went into sink holes, which contaminated the water that you drink.

They now have a place to take their waste either to be recycled or taken to a landfill.

When the Shelby County 109 Board was established, there were two landfills in the county. When both landfills had to be closed according to state and federal law, then waste had to be taken to an out-of-the county landfill. At that time, the cost was manageable. Now, with more businesses and individuals using the transfer station, the cost has risen considerably.

The tax dollars cannot pay for the increase in garbage. If someone has to pay for dumping, they should consider recycling most of their garbage. As mentioned previously, the Shelby County 109 Board could increase your taxes, which would not be fair, or they can charge three cents per pound.

I take my garbage to the transfer station and with the added charge. I would only have to pay no more than $3 per month. I save about $5 or $6 per month by recycling. If I had a 100-pound item to dispose of, that would only cost me $3. No garbage company would take it.

That is why mandatory garbage collection would increase open dumps. Louisville is a prime example of this. Open dumps are created when people cannot afford to dispose of their garbage.

Mandatory garbage collection hurts poor people and elderly who do not have a way to dispose of their garbage. I would rather pay $3 to dispose of my garbage than be made to pay $25 for someone else to take it.

In some counties, the cost of disposing garbage is a lot more than will be charged by Shelby County.

With the new recycling center, the county can store items until they can get a better price for those items. They can also take full loads of recycling materials to be sold instead of partial loads. That will reduce the cost of transportation.

The local paper did not check the laws that the county has to follow including keeping up two closed landfills. If there is a break in the landfills, that break has to be fixed. That could cost as much as $600,000.

Even with mandatory garbage collection, the Shelby County 109 Solid Waste Board will still have to have a centralized transfer station and a recycling facility. We are paying for past generations who dumped at the landfills.

Shelby is one of the cleanest counties in the state. Let us keep it that way by providing a place to recycle items, dump garbage, and keep Shelby County clean.

 

Hugh H. Harris lives in Shelby County.