What we think: Shelby County's new garbage fee idea really stinks

-A A +A

The 109 Board gets nearly $1 million annually in tax money and provides nothing more than property. It needs a vision.

If you own property in Shelby County, you pay 3.5 percent of that property’s taxable value for what you might consider to be garbage service. This is what you receive for that payment: A “convenience center” in Waddy that is maintained and emptied, a recycling center that is staffed and an opportunity to transport your garbage or recyclables to those facilities.

What you don’t get is garbage service.

And someday soon, we now understand, you likely will have to pay extra for the right to take your refuse to those facilities for which you pay.

This is, of course, on top of having to pay an independent company a monthly fee actually to come to your residence or business and collect your garbage – and in some cases recyclables – and truck it away.

Does this smell rotten to you?

If all of this seems complicated, it’s because it is ridiculously off target for how Shelby County’s 109 Board should be planning to handle garbage disposal in our county.
That nearly $1 million is being collected annually to pay for property where now there are no real buildings, few workers and a couple of trucks is misguided.
That the 109 Board, which collects and controls that money, saved up and spent $2.5 million for 25 acres on Windhurst Way – for the sole reason to provide a more central facility for you to take your garbage and recycling – appears a bit outrageous, as some residents already have suggested.
That the board now suggests that you should pay for what you deposit, after you’ve already paid for that opportunity and that property, is simply backwards.
Here is what the 109 Board – and what the in the world does that name mean to taxpayers anyway? –  should be doing:
Working with county and city governments to create a comprehensive garbage and recycling plan that actually serves residents and businesses by picking the material up at their addresses and transporting it to the landfill in Anderson County, where it already is trucked.
That Shelby County and Shelbyville don’t have such a service is so 1970s.
That those governments allow so many garbage companies to move through roads and streets, clogging traffic, tearing up pavement and creating colorful garbage-can blight is wasteful and terribly inefficient.
That taxpayers now would have to pay three ways to be rid of their garbage and recyclables is outrageous. Isn’t one charge per residence or business sufficient?
Why can the city of Simpsonville arrange a service that picks up garbage once a week and extra stuff once a month, albeit with an extra fee? Yes, that should include recycling, but at least it’s a responsible start.
In the county and Shelbyville, we don’t even have a responsible start. We have a new piece of property and probable new fees for the same old non-service.
Garbage removal, like public safety, schools and road repairs, is an essential public service provided for the residents and funded by a shared tax payment, which in Shelby County has been in place for more than 40 years. And for more than four decades we have had that tax payment but not the service. Is there a taxing district that charges the public more and provides less?
Yet, we have lived with these inadequacies and not screamed loudly enough about the most salient points:
Why couldn’t the 109 Board negotiate with one garbage company from among the three or more that residents already hire and create a countywide rate?
Why couldn’t that service be required to include recycling, which is not only a service for our residents but also a mandate for our children?
Why can’t the expense of a new central location be transferred into a down payment on service? If we had such pickup, we wouldn’t need a more convenient place to drop our material, so couldn’t the $2.5 million be invested in a fund that would generate interest to subsidize the 3.5 percent and create a cost basis for a true service?
Why can’t the 109 Board get out of the land business and get into the service business?
Would residents be open to a small extra cost if they were going to get something new out of that expense? Private garbage service is about $15 to $25 a month in the county, and for some that includes recycling. Perhaps that rate could be lower if the county negotiated a single contract for all.
Other cities and counties appear to be able to manage this issue. They have long-range plans and negotiate contracts and serve the residents.
But our 109 Board – made up of good, responsible and respected individuals –  appears to be thinking through its rearview mirror rather than its windshield.
Our children and our environment deserve better than that. Don’t they deserve a plan that looks forward and serves as well as protects?
Yes, let’s look over the horizon, see how the future should be and move now to stop this garbage.