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Garbage rates for Bell County discussed at recent fiscal court meeting

From The Pineville Sun Courier -

If you missed the live broadcast of the Tuesday, July 14th Bell County Fiscal Court meeting, Ashley at the Pineville Sun covered it.

One of the biggest concerns in Bell County was addressed during Tuesday’s Bell County Fiscal Court meeting and that concern is the increase in fees for garbage pickups in Bell County.

To address the concern about the fee increase, Bell County Attorney Neil Ward was present for the meeting.

Bell County Attorney Neil Ward

“Judge when you told me about the question that came up I did some research on it and looked at some contracts and looked at some cases and we didn’t really see any kind of litigation that had occurred,” Ward explained. “But then I went and looked at the ordinance and I think the ordinance is the controlling factor.”

Ward had prepared copies of the ordinance for the magistrates present who wanted to read it. According to Ward, the ordinance dates back to 1971 and according to him has not been amended since then.

“Fees charged for the collection service shall be regulated by the Bell County Garbage and Refuge Disposal District, which members are appointed by the Bell County Judge Executive with the approval of the Fiscal Court,” Ward read from the ordinance. “So, this ordinance actually gives them exclusive right to set their fees, which I guess at the time, and still is important because they’re the ones that deals with the contractors so, they know what the contractors are bidding and what the garbage pick-up is, and since they’re their own entity, it allows them to set their fee.”

Ward went on to explain to the court that he believes that the ordinance can be amended since it has not been amended since it’s implementation in 1971.

“Obviously, this ordinance can be amended, it’s just never been amended but it could be,” he said of the ordinance amendment.

“So, the short answer is that yes, we can amend the ordinance,” Judge Brock responded.

“Yes, and also the answer is that this ordinance is what gives them the power to set the fee,” Ward stated.

Doug Hoskins - 109 Board

“We would like to reiterate about the fee itself,” explained Doug Hoskins, a member of the Bell County 109 Board. “We contract with Mills Garbage, as you know to pick up solid waste in this county. The old rate was $11 and $12; $11 was the discounted rate. This fee had not been increased in seven years nor has the tax rate.”

It was explained that Bell County is still lower than surrounding counties including Claiborne County in Tennessee, and Harlan County, which has a rate of $19, and Knox, Laurel, and Whitley Counties, which are $19.95.

“The reason Mills agreed to keep the rate where it was, is straight across the board rate, no discounts,” Hoskins continued. “If we give discounts, the rates are going to go up for everyone else to offset the discount.”

It was explained that all of the money collected goes directly to Mills.

“But the service they provide to pick up the garbage, all those dollars goes directly to Mills,” Hoskins explained. “They do pay a 5% fee to the water company for a collection service but as far as the 109 Board making any money off that, we do not make any money on that. That is their rate for the service. Now, I might add in this contract negotiation that prior to it and leading up to it, we looked at other providers.”

According to Hoskins, Waste Connections said no because they don’t have the proper equipment to accommodate the county roads.

“We looked at another company and they said a minimum of $25 per household,” Hoskins said. “So, even though Mills, they’re not perfect but nobody’s perfect but they are providing a very good service at the lowest rate in Eastern Kentucky.”

Kirby Smith - 109 Board

According to Hoskins and Kirby Smith, another member of the Bell County 109 Board, just this year alone, 10,000 tons of garbage has already been disposed of from the landfill.

The 109 Board is made up of a group of volunteers that is appointed by the fiscal court who work diligently to oversee the 109 Board operations. These are non-paid positions. These members donate their time and energy for the improvement and well being of the county.

Bell County JE Albey Brock

“I understand that you are not doing it for the money and over the years I have been very appreciative that our tax rate as it applies to the 109 has stayed as low and others would raise taxes to compensate a rate, those type of things,” Judge Brock reiterated. “But you guys have been very, very conservative by nature, and again, I want to express that I’m not and I don’t feel like the court is witch-hunting you. I know it probably might feel that way but you know I agree with Magistrate Saylor in that there are those out there that while it’s small, it’s relevant. There are those that the small amount of money is a lot of money and I want us to stay cognitive of that and I want you guys to know that I really believe that what he has brought up here in the court is from a genuine spot.”

Magistrate Eddie Saylor

Judge Brock explained that the reason that it was brought up before the court is that it was brought up as a general concern from a citizen to Magistrate Saylor.

“That’s his role as a member of this court, there’s been constituents that have brought up a concern and we are trying to address it,” Brock said. “Since you have been, since we have been, and the water company has been collecting the rate, has the amount of money increased? Is it above what was expected? Is Mills getting more? As a result of it coming to the water bill now, is Mills generating more revenue than they were?”

According to Hoskins and Smith, Mills is now servicing more customers than they were before, therefore the revenue has increased but also the service has increased for them.

“I just want us to be cautious that we don’t create a bigger problem in an effort that no good deed goes unpunished,” Judge Brock said. “I would prefer to bring Mills to the table, try to negotiate out this concern and it would be very helpful in that negotiation if we knew that Mills’ revenue that versus this time last year as a result of this new collection mechanism which says that if you have a water meter but they are creating no tonnage, so, if there enough of that out there, then their revenue should be up versus the amount of tonnage that they are handling and if it is then I’m going to expect them to give that back to those churches.”

According to Brock, the court is making a good faith effort to address concerns with Mills and is an attempt to tweak something and make it better.

Other items that were addressed during the meeting was the current construction of the Wildlife Center and according to Judge Brock the Wildlife Center should be ‘kicking dirt any day’.

“The water project is going on right now and as far as on sight work, I expect, any day now, I would like to say that now and between our next meeting that we will have you a much different answer for that and we may even get them to come, we will see where we are at a month from now and we will have them come do an update when it’s more COVID friendly.”

Hires were approved, checks from Bell County Clerk Debbie Gambrel and Bell County Sheriff Mitch Williams were approved, and upcoming FEMA projects were discussed and approved by the court.

The next meeting of the Bell County Fiscal Court will be Tuesday, August 11 at 11 a.m. at the Bell County Court House in Court House Square in Pineville.  

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