Is The Trash Waste?

A Waste of Money

One of our county commissioners has an idea: stop losing money on trash.  There are tons of companies that run trash for a profit, but our county seems to be intent on losing money.    You may have looked at the budget to see the shortfall, but noticed that it is not there.  To see the picture you have to look at the last page of this year’s budget where you will see that the Landfill Enterprise fund used over $1.1m of reserves to balance the fund.  Since depleting the landfill fund last year to pay for employee retirement; the question becomes, how long can they go before they need our property taxes?  Fact is, we already are.  If you look back to the 2010 budget you can see on page 28 that our property taxes supplemented the solid waste fund $393,482. 

The problem is with the way government operates.  Government deplores a profit.  Instead they create jobs programs.  You see, when revenue rises, government just adds expense to match it. 

There is fear with change and we all know private industry is evil because their only motive is profit.  But at this time when we are faced with almost a $12m shortfall in the budget, can you think of a better time to embrace the evil ways and look to turn this loser into a cash cow? 

There are 3 primary components to the solid waste fund: the landfill, the compactor sites, and recycling.  If the county can turn a $1.2m loss into a profit of say $2m, we will have made up ¼ of the difference in the budget gap.  I understand that our landfill currently has the highest rates around.  Our landfill tipping fees are $40 per ton.  Compare our rates to other landfills:

Banks County


Barrow County


Cherokee County


Clarke County


Forsyth County


Gwinnett County


Habersham County



When the rates were increased back in 2008 from $34.50 per ton to the current $40 level, the former commissioner, Steve Gailey said, “This isn’t going to affect the average … citizen.  It’s going to affect private haulers.”  The problem is that the private haulers pass along this fee to the average citizen. 

According to a DCA study done in 2009, the average rate for our area was $33.97 per ton.  Another DCA study indicated that we have 42 years of life left on our landfill with an average daily tonnage of 210 (I hear it is more like 135).   With Gwinnett showing only 12 years of life left on their landfill, it would appear that we have a golden opportunity.  However, it looks like the Chairman isn’t interested in taking in trash from others areas.

The other issue is with the compactor sites.  Currently we (county residents) pay a $50 fee per year to use the sites.  First, since I pay to have my trash picked up, I am not really sure where the closest site would be to my house.  Essentially, I am paying double for trash (well not quite double) because I pay a vendor and I am charged on my tax bill.  The Census Bureau estimate for 2009 had over 64k housing units in our county.  If we make the assumption that 2/3rds of the population is non city folk, then we can guess that the annual revenue stream for the compactors is about $2.1m on 42,000 homes.  We can also estimate the users based on the tonnage.  The compactor sites in 2010 spent $1,118,000 in charges @ $40 per ton that would be 27,950 tons.  When the DCA did their study in 2009, they show that the average person’s disposal rate was about 5.87 pounds per day.  If we use the number of 3 people per household (high number, probably should be about 2.7), we can calculate that each house hold throws away about 17 pounds per day or about 3.2 tons per year.  That means about 8,750 households use the compactor sites.   If these 8,750 homes had curbside pickup (like me) at $15 per month, it would only be $1.575m for trash.  The fact that we are losing almost $500k per year with residents delivering their trash just blows my mind. 

It is time to eliminate the Hall County jobs program also known as the solid waste fund.  It is time to suck it up and get rid of the compactor sites and go with a (dear Lord, don’t say it…) a Gwinnett County model for trash.  We need to reduce the impact on our roads and eliminate the gap in the budget.  I think we can all agree that the current process does not work.  If you have better ideas, then step forward. 

Hugh Hall County Akston

  2 comments for “Is The Trash Waste?

  1. Slipknot
    May 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Good work on the research above Hugh. I don’t know who has dropped the ball on this within County Administration over the years, but I think this is a symptom of bigger problems. It’s obvious they ignored the millage rate for the last 12+ years also. What the hell are they getting paid/elected for ?!? Methinks chronic mismanagement over several administrations.

    The anger and frustration levels are quickly escalating outside and inside County gov’t. I hear the June 9 public commission meeting is gonna be worse than a zombie apocalypse. I hope they makes plans for adequate security.

    • Hugh Akston
      May 26, 2011 at 11:10 pm

      Thanks! After reading the headline about a tax increase, I think they should sell tickets on June 9. I have always heard the question; “how do you eat an elephant?” Answer: “One bite at a time.” It would appear that they kicked the can down the road long enough and now they are about to choke on the elephant as they try to eat it in one swallow. (I need to add a few more clichés)

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