The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 7th

Board of Commissioners takes first step in closing Orange County landfill

The Orange County Board of Commissioners took the first steps toward closing the county’s landfill by passing a $5 tipping fee increase Tuesday night.

Revenue generated from the increase — which County Manager Frank Clifton said would be between $50,000 and $60,000 per year — will be used to fund remediation payments to the Rogers Road community that has housed the landfill for almost 40 years.

Commissioner Valerie Foushee emphasized the need for the board to move forward rather than revisit past options.

“(The Rogers Road residents) don’t have 30 more years to keep living through this,” she said. “Is it indeed that we’re waiting for them to all die off? I just can’t see continuing to stretch this out.”

Bonnie Hauser, a spokeswoman for Orange County Voice, spoke out in support of the neighborhoods surrounding the landfill with seven other residents representing the Rogers Road community at Tuesday’s meeting.

The residents, who asked the board to install connection to public water and sewer for the neighborhood, told the commissioners they would have a report on the expected costs of their requests ready in about a month.

“We are on a path to very quickly nail the specific details we need to make this right and to fund it,” Hauser said. “Let’s get it done now.”

The board encouraged the residents to also take their complaints to their town councils, but decided to take action without waiting for Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough to get on board.

“What the municipalities do is going to be what the municipalities do,” Foushee said. “The county needs to move forward with this.”

While stating that the towns should have an equal obligation to the landfill, Commissioner Barry Jacobs said the board needs to address the issue in a way that will best benefit the entire county.

“We need to get our asses in gear,” he said. “We keep saying that, and we don’t do it.”

Commissioners also eliminated a landfill option that would have extended the life of the landfill until March 2018.

The board will hold a work session after its summer recess to discuss establishing a timeline for closing the landfill. Clifton said the county has a 30-year obligation to maintain the landfill after the date of its closure.

Emphasizing avoiding a property tax increase and maintaining funding levels of local school systems, Clifton also presented his recommended budget to the board at Tuesday’s meeting.

The proposed $177.3 million budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year includes a $3.9 million spending decrease from the current year’s amended budget.

With property taxes comprising 75.3 percent of the budget, Clifton said the property tax would likely have to be adjusted in the next budget, especially with the county funding $3.5 million of the Efland Sewer Project.

Although state cuts to education funding have not yet been handed down, the manager has recommended to put forth $83.5 million toward funding the county’s two school systems.

“The unknowns still exist,” Clifton said. “We don’t know what the state’s going to do with education or human services.”

The board will hold public hearings on the budget Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Department of Social Services in Hillsborough and Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Southern Human Services building in Chapel Hill.

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