MADISON — Both of Boone County’s free trash dump sites will be closed by the end of the year after the Boone County Commission voted unanimously to start the process of shutting down the Rock Creek and Fosterville public solid waste transfer stations.
During its Tuesday, Sept. 29, regular session meeting of the Boone County Commission at the judicial annex of the Boone County Courthouse in Madison, commission said due to a lack of coal severance tax money the free trash dump sites would have to be closed in 120 days.
“We do not want to do this, but financially we have no other viable options,” said Boone County Commission President Eddie Hendricks.
Over 50 people packed the commission’s meeting room as speaker after speaker came forward to protest the closing and to urge the commission to look for other options and cuts in the county budget so that the transfer stations can remain open.
“Closing these free trash dumps is going to create a health hazard in Boone County,” said Clark Dillon, a Boone County resident. “I remember what is was like before the free trash dumps were available and I predict it will be even worse today.”
Free trash dumping has been available to Boone County residents for over 30 years. Boone County is the only county in the state that provided the service, but commissioners and county management officials said it now costs more than the county can afford to pay.
“It costs approximately $1.3 million a year to operate the two transfer stations and that is not counting the employees salaries,” said Boone County administrator Jim Gore. “It is paid for out of our coal severance tax revenue, which also provides funding to other programs, and that revenue is now below even the cost to operate just the two transfer stations.”
Some residents said they would not mind paying a fee or even paying more taxes to keep the facilities open and the service available for county residents.
“The free trash dumps are one return the taxpayers of this county get and it should be a priority to keep it,” said lifelong Boone County resident Alan Dotson. “Without them, this county will become a garbage dump.”
Madison chiropractor and Republican candidate for county assessor, Chase Hill says by increasing each household’s property tax by just $80 a year the county would have the revenue needed to keep the transfer stations open.
“There are approximately 14,500 households and by increasing their property tax by $80 a year it would create around $1.2 million in additional revenue,” he said.
Several other ideas were proposed, as well as comments and concerns were voiced at the meeting.
Commissioners voted to proceed with the paperwork to close the facilities, but said they would look at every option offered and give consideration to every concern voiced at the meeting.
After the meeting, commissioner Mickey Brown said he knows the decision will likely lead to more pollution in the county, which is something he strongly opposes.
“We want to provide out citizens with as much as we can and we do not want our county to get nasty. We do want economic development and we want people to be proud of where they live at,” Brown said.
“Those caught illegally dumping and littering face arrest and fines,” said commissioner Atholl Halstead. “We anticipate this happening when the transfer stations are closed, but we also anticipate a crack down on those that illegally dump and litter.”
Many who attended felt the commission did not do a good job in managing its funding when coal mining was booming and the county was taking in millions more in coal severance tax revenue.
“If the coal severance tax revenue was decreasing each year, I think there should have been a plan in place,” Hill said. “I feel the public should have been made aware of the situation long ago and not just dropped on them like a sudden problem with no plan in place.”
When the transfer stations close, county resident will have the option of getting on with a municipality trash service or those not living in a muncipality or one without trash pickup service can sign on with Waste Management Services for around $15 a month.
Danny Warner, a councilman with the City of Madison, said the town doesn’t have the finances either to take care of the upcoming trash problems.
“We had been taking the city’s trash to the transfer station twice a week, but without it, I am not sure if the city has the budget to handle the additional costs we are going to have to provide trash service in Madison,” he said.
Commissioners said rumors of closing or shutting down senior citizen programs, services and buildings or closing the county operated pool in Racine were false.
“We haven’t made any decisions to close any of those things or stop any services,” commissioner Brown said. “We are going to have to make additional cuts in our budget because our general revenue fund is also going down each year. The county commission’s main function is to make sure the courthouse is open and operating.”
Others who attended the meeting hope they can find some type of alternative solution in the next 120 days.
“I hope they come up with a solution because we need the dump, we’ve gotten used to the dump, we use it 3-4 times a week,” said Donna Massey of Boone County.
“We really need these free trash dumps,” said Homer Whitman of Foster. “This is a vital service for Boone County.”
“I can’t imagine the litter and eye-sores we are going to have in Boone County without these free trash dumps,” said Walter Sharps of Boone County.
“I think you will see lots of garbage dumped into our rivers, so all of the river clean up over the past several years will all be for nothing if they close these free trash dumps,” said David Whitman of Foster.
“I hope they keep them open,” said Ruth Bias of Foster. “We need to keep Boone County clean.”