Commentary: Taking out the trash

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Cannon County has issues with its solid waste operations. That means the Town of Woodbury also has solid waste issues.

Whether they should solve their issues separately or together is a matter which needs to be studied, discussed and debated by both sides, because residents who pay both town and county property taxes are caught in the middle.

Woodbury only has an issue because it offers garbage collection service to its residents. Garbage trucks go around town each week and pick up Woodbury's trash.

That service costs money and Woodbury residents pay for it through their town property taxes.

If Woodbury did not offer the service, residents would have to take their trash to the Cannon County Convenience Center themselves. That would increase the amount of daily traffic on Alexander Drive, but it is unknown how significant a problem that would create.

Persons who live outside the city have to dispose of their garbage by doing it themselves, or by paying an independent contractor. We're sure there are some Woodbury residents and businesses who also take their garbage to the convenience center themselves, even though the town offers curbside service.

The burden of disposing of the trash its trucks collect from residents falls squarely and solely on the Town of Woodbury. It's not the responsibility of Cannon County Government because the county does not offer pickup service.

For most of the last several decades Town of Woodbury trucks have been disposing of the trash it collects at the Cannon County Convenience Center. The Fifth District of Cannon County is comprised mostly of the Town of Woodbury. As do residents of the other four districts, its resident pay the county property taxes which fund the convenience center.

In addition to serving as a place where trash is dumped, the convenience center also serves as a transfer station. Trucks take the trash from there to a landfill in Rutherford County. Residents of all five of the county's districts pay also for that service through their county property taxes.

For the last 16 years Woodbury residents, and only Woodbury residents, paid an additional $40,000 per year to help fund the county's solid waste operation -- that's on top of the amount they pay in county property taxes. According to Harold Patrick, who has served as both county executive and town mayor, when he was county executive the town ran the convenience center and they split the cost of keeping the compactor operational.

There was no contract which specified what the town was paying for or what the town expected to receive in return for the $40,000 yearly contribution, which it has ended. Whether it was fair or not for Woodbury residents to pay that extra money is a matter for debate. What is not debatable is the town received little in return for its $640,000 investment, seeing as the compactor is breaking down with increasing frequency.

When that happens, the town's trucks have the take the garbage directly to the landfill. That increases the town's cost of providing garbage collection service. The county pays the tipping fee at the landfill because it is obligated to do so since the county collects property tax money from town residents earmarked for solid waste disposal.

Because of that, the county may also be responsible for one-fifth of the cost the town incurs if its trucks have to carry the garbage to the landfill

There is only one thing Woodbury needs from the convenience center and that is the ability to dump the trash in its trucks into whatever trailer is used to haul it to the landfill. Woodbury residents already are taxed by the county to have it transported and deposited at the landfill. Whether the county should continue to provide a way for the town's trucks to use the convenience center is open to discussion, but clearly both sides need to be prepared to move forward without the other if no agreement can be worked out.

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