'Decal to dump' idea gets tabled for study

CAREY JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer

LOUISBURG -- Franklin County commissioners filed away a program that would have required residents to have a decal to dump their trash.

During a work session in May, Solid Waste Director Brian Haynesworth presented commissioners the plan that, according to county staff, has had a long gestation period.

The program would have required residents to display a county-issued decal in order to dump trash at the county's convenience centers.

The program would create an easily identifiable way for convenience center employees to recognize those authorized to use the convenience center and turn away out-of-county users and "contractors masquerading as residents" -- users who add costs to the county system without contributing to the availability fee that's supposed to cover those costs.

When Haynesworth presented the program to commissioners during a budget work session on May 22, they appeared cool to the idea.

During the board's budget work session on June 3, commissioners voted to hold off on installing the program, indefinitely.

Commissioner Michael Schriver noted that if the county wants to make sure that residents are the rightful users of convenience centers, checking vehicle registration -- something residents are required to maintain and would already have -- is more amenable than having residents get decals and keep up with them, which could be a hassle for people with multiple vehicles.

"[I think we should] incorporate that kind of accountability process [at the convenience centers] and that we stay away from the decals," he said, making that in the form of a motion, which garnered a second.

Commissioner Shelley Dickerson wondered how convenience center attendants would put that goal into practice, noting that hundreds of cars come through the convenience center on a daily basis -- particularly on Saturdays.

That's why Haynesworth favored the decals, which are easier to detect and keep traffic moving.

"The decal system, by the very nature of it is, to very quickly, at a glance, see which vehicles are those vehicles of those payers of our fee," he said, noting that the decal program is not about putting a burden on users. It's goal is to keep non fee-paying people out of the convenience centers.

Non-paying users drive up the overall cost for those who do pay the fee.

"This is about stewardship and looking after the investment of these fee payers regarding the services that they support," Haynesworth said.

"To ask [attendants] to check registrations, again, would create unintended consequences [such as confrontations].

"Folks appreciate, whether it's trash disposal or grocery pickup, to get in and get out," he said. "The decal system, at a glance, would allow those employees to see who belongs and who doesn't and redirect those folks who don't to the [transfer station]where they can properly pay what they're supposed to pay for the disposal so we don't lose that money."

Commissioner Harry Foy wondered if the county could simply reinforce the fact that convenience centers are for fee-paying customers, only.

Besides, Foy said attendants should be able to determine from experience who's supposed to be there and who is not.

"They see them all the time because they're your regular folks," Foy said.

Haynesworth said that's becoming increasingly more difficult to do with the county's growth.

"... The point is, we're not trying to make something extra cumbersome," he said. "We're trying to simplify the ability to be better stewards over the investment that we ask [of] our fee payers.

"I believe in this budget, we're asking [users] to pay $90 to support the programs of solid waste.

"[The decal system], to me, is a small price to pay to allow them to understand that we're protecting that investment to be more fiscally responsible with the fees that they pay so that we don't create an environment where folks from neighboring counties ... come through, dispose of their trash and they've done it on the backs of the fee payers."

Commissioner Shelley Dickerson noted that the county is preparing to study its convenience centers, which could yield changes, such as size, scope and location.
In light of that, she said, it's probably not the right time to place another change on top of that.

"I think we need to hold off on [trash decals] for now," she said.

Schriver agreed and modified his motion to just table the matter for this budget year, which was approved by unanimous decision.

The only reason the matter was being discussed now is that, if approved, the decals would have gone out with tax bills and staff would've needed a decision soon to complete that task.

The decision to table the matter does not change the $90 availability fee, which was approved as part of the budget.

County Manager Angela Harris said the county will take other steps to try to keep non fee-paying people from using the convenience centers.

"We'll work to improve signage and marketing and the educational aspect of [who's allowed to use the convenience centers]," Harris said.