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Calls to eliminate solid waste fee

The Southampton County treasurer and a member of the public used the citizens comment period of the Board of Supervisors’ April 27 meeting to call on the board to eliminate the county’s solid waste management fee.

Cynthia J. Edwards

The county’s initial draft budget for fiscal year 2022 proposes to keep the fee and leave it at the same amount it was at for fiscal year 2021 — $200.

On April 27, Southampton County Treasurer Cynthia J. Edwards spoke strongly in favor of the fee’s elimination.

“As high as the taxes are in this county, there should not be any solid waste fee,” she said. “The taxpayers are already paying way too much.”

Edwards has also urged the board to eliminate the fee during recent budget work sessions, the most recent of which she referenced when responding to something said then by Capron District Supervisor and Vice Chair William Hart Gillette.

“It was commented by Supervisor Gillette at the last meeting that everybody else does it, referring to charging solid waste fees,” she said. “Well, that is not true. I have spoken with Isle of Wight County, Sussex County and Greensville County, and they do not charge a solid waste or trash fee. Their disposal, they tell me, is all taken care of through money collected in their regular tax collections. Now I know the cities do charge, but they also pick up the trash.”

She said that out-of-control spending, it seems, is what was the cause of implementing the trash fee in the first place.

“Prior to that, the trash was disposed of properly by using tax funds that were collected up until 2012 when the fee was implemented,” she said. “The tipping fees have dropped tremendously, and as you all stated that the trash fee would drop or be done away with upon the tipping fees dropping, and that has not taken place, so your trust and integrity goes downhill when you don’t do what you say you’re going to do.”

Edwards said she does realize everybody serving on the current board was not on the board in 2012.

“However, I do believe you should follow suit with what was promised,” she said. 

She noted that when asked what was done with the savings from the tipping fees going down, County Administrator Michael W. Johnson stated that the savings from the tipping fees had been used to replenish the reserve.

“Well, best I can tell from what I’m getting from the Virginia Investment Pool, we did not put money in the reserve all of those years that the fees went down, so it’s time to do the right thing and do away with the solid waste fee,” she said. 

Edwards stated she has spoken with several of the supervisors individually who said they did not support the fee.

“If you don’t support it, you need to stand up and say that and come forward and have the budget redrawn up based on not using a solid waste fee,” she said. “I’d appreciate you all looking at that for the citizens. We’re still getting complaints about that, that it’s not been done, and it was promised. So please do the right thing.”

Linda Simmons spoke a short time later, noting that she agreed with everything Edwards had said.

“I feel like we’ve got one of the best Board of Supervisors we’ve had in a long time,” Simmons said. “Not that the others haven’t tried and done the best they knew, but we have so many different issues now, and you all are doing a great job. And I think Cindy has a valid point that even though it might be tough, integrity is everything, and I hate to see you all tarnish that with a $200 trash fee.”

Alan W. Edwards

Simmons noted that if there is any innovative way the board can come up with a resolution or compromise, she thinks it would do a lot for citizen morale and not hurt the board.

“And I certainly appreciate Cindy trying to find new ways to solve problems,” she said. “So you’ve got a magnificent team, so I agree with her — put your heads back together and see what you can come up with.”

Jerusalem District Supervisor and Board Chair Dr. Alan W. Edwards responded after Simmons had concluded her comments on the solid waste fee.

“I think I can speak for all the Board of Supervisors — we’d all like to get rid of it, and we’ve been looking at it,” he said. “We will continue to look at it, and we just need to find a way to do it, but it never leaves our mind, from meeting to meeting, believe me.”