The Orange County Board of Commissioners last week approved the purchase of 7,600 recycling roll carts at a cost of $444,144. Chapel Hill and Carrboro received 90 gallon carts to replace the smaller bins earlier this year.
“I’m very supportive of this and I think that the people in the county, the 7,000 people that want their roll-out carts are going to be thrilled,” said Commissioner Penny Rich.
The county’s rural recycling program serves only a fraction of the residents of unincorporated Orange, about 13,700 households. Others take their trash and recycling to one of the five solid waste convenience centers around the county.
When commissioners first debated purchasing the roll carts for county residents, some residents objected, saying their long driveways and lack of curbs made the carts hard to use.
Gayle Wilson, director of Orange County Solid Waste, told the board slightly more than half of the current customers requested roll carts. He asked the board to authorize the purchase of additional carts in case others changed their minds.
“It is expected that once we start distributing the carts, people will decide that they do want a cart rather than continue to use their bins, or they may have not responded previously and saw a nice, shiny new bin at their neighbors and they call up and they want one,” said Wilson.
Commissioners approved it by a 6-1 vote with Chair Earl McKee opposing. While the purchase had broad support on the board, some, including Commissioner Barry Jacobs, worried it might be short-sighted, coming at time when the towns and county are working on a long-term plan for solid waste.
“Considering that the Solid Waste Advisory Group is looking at the methods for funding curbside or roadside pickup, is this not putting the carts before the horse?”
Jacobs serves on the Solid Waste Advisory Group (SWAG), an intergovernmental work group tasked with identifying a county-wide solution to handle trash and recycling as well as a means to fund it. He and fellow SWAG member Rich told board members the work group will present a slate of proposals for funding recycling pick-up in the spring of 2015.
In the meantime, the new blue carts will roll out in January to 7,000 Orange county residents.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/blue-recycling-roll-carts-set-roll-orange-county/
A Solid Waste Advisory Group representing Orange, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and UNC is working on a plan to fund curbside recycling for all concerned next year.
SWAG, as it’s called, needs to come up with a recommendation by March, because the current funding source dries up in June.
“We’ve been working on a new interlocal agreement, and we’ve gone through several iterarations,” said Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle at Wednesday night’s Assembly of Governments meeting.
She and fellow Solid Waste Advisory Group member Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt of Chapel Hill asked members of the four governing bodies of Orange, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough for more time to come up with a new interlocal funding recommendation for curbside recycling.
Kleinschmidt, Lavelle and others from SWAG had hoped to come into last week’s meeting with that recommendation, but talks are still ongoing. SWAG now hopes to have a recommendation by spring of next year.
That request for more time was granted unanimously.
SWAG has met four times between late August and early October since it was appointed with two members of each local governing body.
During that process, representatives from UNC and UNC Hospital were also invited to join in.
Back in June, Orange Commissioners voted to spend $2 million from the solid waste reserve fund to pay for rural and urban recycling pick-up for the next fiscal year.
But that mechanism comes to a halt on June 30, 2015.
Kleinschmidt told WCHL last week that he’s hopeful that a new agreement is near. He suggested there’s a spirit of cooperation engendered by the county’s actions in June.
“The county took a big risk,” said Kleinschmidt, “and I was really proud of them – with the leadership that’s on the Board of Commissioners right now. They went forward last year and got everybody those blue recycling carts, so that we could continue with curbside recycling.
“They dipped into their own solid waste funds to make sure that we could have curbside recycling in Chapel Hill and Carrboro for this year. And they had no promise that we were going to have an agreement on how we could move forward after this year is over.”
Lavelle told WHCL last week that she agrees with Kleinschmidt that progress is being made.
“I think we all are making good-faith efforts towards a new agreement,” said Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle. “I think that’s our objective. I think we’ve asked a lot of questions about, what are all the fiscal assumptions that kid of underlie the enterprise fund, and what’s the supporting data, if you will, for what the fees would be? So, we’re kind of working through that, and understanding that better.”
There’s definitely an incentive to get an agreement done. Since Orange County rolled out 18,000 blue recycling carts this past summer, curbside recycling has gone up 29 percent.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/local-governments-hashing-agreement-next-years-recycling/
Additional reporting by Aaron Keck
Almost all the new rolling recycling carts are in use in the municipal sections of Orange County, and rural households should be following closely.
“The commissioners did authorize the purchase of 7,000 carts for the rural area,” says Blair Pollock, a Solid Waste Planner with Orange County Solid Waste Management. “
He says there are roughly 13,700 households on the recycling route in the rural part of the county.
However, he says the big gap between the two numbers may not be a bad thing.
“A: we know that not a lot of people recycle at the curb,” Pollock says. “We know that a lot of people will bring their recyclables to convenience centers. And B: not everyone’s going to want a cart. If you have a long driveway, maybe you’d rather keep your bins. In the rural area, there’s a lot more impediments to everyone using a cart.”
He says, in order to find out how many carts are needed, a survey is being conducted in the next several weeks to ask who wants to opt in to the program.
Once the numbers are tallied, the carts will be ordered and delivered.
“We’ll get the carts ordered by November, and we’ll be able to distribute them next January and start collection around February,” Pollock says.
Pollock says that is a carefully-calculated but soft timeframe but that there are always problems that could arise.
“Can you says, ‘ice storm’,” Pollock says.
Let’s hope not.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/blue-recycling-carts-heading-rural-oc-soon/
Orange County has delivered more than 18,000 new blue recycling carts to single-family households in Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, and Orange County residents seem to be adjusting well to the new system.
But there are still a few minor kinks that can be easily worked out.
“Orange County Solid Waste has completed the distribution of over 18,000 carts in Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough for single-family recycling,” said Orange County Solid Waste Planner Blair Pollock. “They’re now all in use. We’re completing the third week of collection with the carts. And by and large, people seem to be happy. But there’s still a few glitches in the system,” said Orange County Solid Waste Planner Blair Pollock.
There are a few things that folks who are new to curbside recycling should know.
Carts should be placed with the cart lid facing the street. That will ensure that the lid opens right into the truck when the robot arm lifts the cart off the ground.
Pollock added that the cart wheels should be flush against the curb, and that carts need to be at least three feet away from possible obstructions, such as telephone poles, fire hydrants, and trees.
Pollock said that even though some people have yet to catch on to all the steps of modern recycling, workers are managing to make all of their pickups, while striving for more efficiency.
“We’re trying to encourage all those things so that more of the collection can be automated, and therefore, done more quickly and more efficiently,” said Pollock. “It keeps the cost down, and frankly, it also reduces worker injury.”
The newer automated system is a welcome change for workers making the pickups. In the old days, one person drove the truck, while another got out as many as 500 times per shift, to lift between one and three heavy bins at each stop.
Pollock said that if Orange County residents can remember to adhere to all of the recycling steps he mentioned, they’ll be helping some grateful public employees avoid unnecessary manual labor.
He added that if you have any questions about curbside recycling, you can call the Orange County Solid Waste Department at 919-968-2788; or send an email to email@example.com://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/oc-curbside-recycling-tips-first-time-cart-users/
The Carrboro Board of Aldermen will vote Tuesday on whether to accept a $75,000 grant for curbside recycling carts.
Stemming from an inter-local agreement between Orange County and The Towns of Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro that was approved by all parties in February, nearly $168,000 from Orange County would be added to Carrboro’s $75,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, for a total of nearly $243,000.
That money would go toward ensuring that every household in Carrboro is equipped with a curbside recycling roll cart.
Under the inter-local agreement, the Town is required to pay Orange County an amount equal to any grant it receives for the project.
That’s just one of the items on a busy agenda for Tuesday night’s Aldermen meeting, which takes place at 7:30 at Town Hall, located at 301 West Main Street in Carrboro.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/carrboro-aldermen-vote-75k-grant-recycling-carts/
With town and county officials looking to collaborate on solid waste disposal and recycling, there’s increasing interest in changing the way individuals and institutions handle trash in Orange County.
County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier says it’s time to seriously consider a pay-as-you-throw system that charges households based on how much waste each generates.
“We know, from a psychological point of view, that paying for something makes people think about it,” says Pelissier. “Just like we got increased water conservation by having the tiered rates. People are now conscious that it’s a precious resource. What we have in our trash cans or recycling bins, that’s a precious resource as well, so we have to frame it very differently.”
Carrboro Alderman Sammy Slade agrees. He says Carrboro is already investigating the feasibility of such a system, with an eye to rewarding residents who reduce their trash output.
“Personally, I’m interested in not just an individual, per-household pay-as-you-throw system- there’s some concern in the Town of Carrboro about the regressive quality of that,” says Slade. “There’s an opportunity, I feel, at the neighborhood level to incentivize the neighborhood to reduce its trash, then credit the neighborhood for it to use through participatory budgeting at the neighborhood scale.”
Though critics of pay-as-you-throw argue it can disproportionally impact low-income households, Orange County Solid Waste Planner Blair Pollock says some elderly residents might actually benefit from the change.
“The predominant low-income family in our county is elderly and lives alone or has a small household,” says Pollock. “So people, like my mom, who live in this county benefit from pay-as-you throw. One could easily flip that argument on its head.”
Switching to a pay-as-you-throw system is part of a larger question of how the local governments can handle solid waste in a socially and environmentally just manner.
Now that the Eubanks Road landfill has closed, the towns and county are trucking trash to a waste transfer station in Durham. That trash ultimately ends up at a landfill in Sampson County.
Board of Commissioners candidate Mark Marcoplos visited the landfill to see firsthand the impact that has on the surrounding neighborhood. He says the largely low-income African-American community is suffering from the burden of Orange County’s trash.
“We’re in this situation where we’re patting ourselves on the back for finally providing social justice to the Rogers Road community and we’re actually affecting a community even worse over the horizon in Sampson County, so this is an issue we have to address,” says Marcoplos.
While some are pushing for the construction of a waste transfer station near Chapel Hill, Town Council member Jim Ward says ultimately, local governments will need to find a more permanent solution.
“I do think that if we go forward and see the need for a landfill, and I think there is one, I think it’s incumbent on us to put it in our own backyard and not be oblivious to it being transported to some impoverished neighborhood in Eastern North Carolina or Southern Virginia or wherever this stuff goes,” says Ward.
Orange County Commissioner Earl McKee says all stakeholders need to get together to come up with short and long-term solutions.
“I think that we’re going to need to look at this entire discussion of what we’re going to do with our trash, how we’re going to handle recycling, and we need to look at it in a comprehensive manner along with the towns.”
But once local governments work out a plan, McKee says they’ll need the political will to stick to it.
“I think its finally going to break down to having to devise a plan, then have the backbone to stand by that plan and put it into effect.”
The towns and county are in the process of hashing out a new interlocal agreement on solid waste. County commissioners will get their first look at the draft agreement on May 13.
Pelissier, Slade, Pollock, Ward, Marcoplos and McKee made those comments during the “Environment” panel of WCHL’s 2014 Community Forum. You can listen to the full forum here.http://chapelboro.com/news/2014-community-forum/time-pay-throw-trash-plan/
HILLSBOROUGH – A public hearing on a proposed tax district for recycling pickup in Orange County brought a lot of people out to the Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night.
Here were just a few of the comments from behind the guest podium:
“I loved Hillsborough in the past, but now I want to take my business and home elsewhere just because we are overtaxed, and I don’t get the benefits.”
“If it is a new tax, shouldn’t we be allowed to vote on it?”
“I find the argument that us rural folk are lazy and won’t recycle without this scheme disingenuous.”
“It’s not a matter so much of the cost. It’s a matter of principle.”
“Never mess with something that’s working. These convenience centers are working. Leave them alone.”
The proposed service district would replace an annual 3-R fee of $38 that was added to property tax bills from 2004 until 2012. That was when the county discontinued the fee over concern about its legality.
The tax district idea has sparked anger among some vocal residents of rural areas.
They contend that they can take care of recycling themselves, by carting it off to convenience centers, as they’ve been doing for a long time.
Some speakers said they don’t want to push big recycling bins down long, winding gravel driveways. Some insisted they don’t want to pay for a service they’re not going to use. And some said they’re already being taxed too much in Orange County.
There were also a few comments in favor of the service district:
“I just want to speak to this idea that people can selectively choose the taxes they want to pay or that they think benefit them. If that was the case in this country, we would not have a functioning society.”
That’s Tom Linden, a resident of the dense suburban Stoneridge neighborhood of unincorporated Orange County. He says that 300 households in his area “need and want” curbside recycling.
Terri Buckner lives on Yorktown Drive in Chapel Hill, in the southern part of the county. She said her neighborhood gets “forgotten a lot” in this discussion.
“We don’t have access to the convenience centers that you all here in the north have,” she said. “So, for me, hauling my recycling to the convenience center is really quite an inconvenience, even though I am paying for your convenience centers.”
Such arguments did not sway rural residents such as Steve Hopper of Efland.
“Those with curbside recycling access – 57 percent are using it,” he said. “In the rural areas without curbside recycling – 50 percent are doing it. That’s a seven percent difference. You’re going to spend how much money for seven percent?”
Commissioners must come up with a one-size-fits-all solution, because State law mandates that a service district must be contiguous. Targeting curbside pickup to those that want it most is not an option.
Mark Marcoplos, who’s running this year against Commissioner Earl McKee for the District 2 seat, spoke at the hearing. He faulted Commissioners for not opting to simply keep the 3-R fee in place.
“This worked very well, until the county lawyer offered his opinion that, based on a case involving Cabarrus County, the county might face a legal challenge on the fee,” said Marcoplos.
He was referring to a decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court in August 2012, which struck down school facility fees in Cabarrus County. Orange County took that as a precedent that invalidated county government fees if they were not approved by the General Assembly.
Bonnie Hauser, who’s running against Chairman Barry Jacobs for his at-large seat, also spoke at the hearing. She said that while she is not a resident of the proposed tax district, she cares about the issue.
“There is no option that I can see that takes me down a path of a service district tax as a fair or equitable solution for the county,” she said.
It was the second of two public hearings about the recycling district. Commissioners could make a decision at the April 15 meeting, to be held at the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road in Chapel Hill, starting at 7 p.m.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/recycling-issue-brings-rural-residents-orange-commissioners-hearing/
The newest restaurant in Chapel Hill’s 140 West is celebrating its grand opening on Thursday, March 20.
Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom will mark its grand opening on March 20 with a ribbon cutting at 11:00 a.m.
Old Chicago got its start back in 1976 – and to honor that, the company will offer free pizza for a year for the first 76 customers in line. There will also be a free throw shooting contest outside on the 140 West plaza – and Old Chicago will donate $76 to Farmer Foodshare for each free throw that gets made. (Show the Tar Heels how it’s done!)
Listen to Aaron Keck’s conversation on the Wednesday afternoon news with Old Chicago’s Chris Beckler.
For the next two months, the Town of Chapel Hill is inviting you to give your feedback on the latest draft of its Bike Plan.
You can find the plan and a comment form online at TownOfChapelHill.org/bikeplan.
There will be a public forum to discuss the plan on Monday, April 28.
Chatham County officials say drinking water in some parts of the county might have a musty taste and odor for the next month or so – but it’s still safe to drink.
Chatham Water Utilities found higher-than-usual levels of compounds in water recently sampled from Jordan Lake Reservoir, causing the slight difference in taste. Director Leonard McBryde says this is a seasonal issue that’s “not uncommon for water systems that draw raw water from lakes.”
Since it’s seasonal, county officials say it should only last about a month – but in the meantime, residents can minimize the taste difference by refrigerating water in a pitcher, or using a carbon filter.
Orange County will be holding a second public hearing in April to discuss the proposed new solid waste service tax district for unincorporated areas of the county.
The district is being proposed as a way to continue funding the county’s recycling program. The program had been funded with an annual fee attached to residents’ property tax bill, but that fee has been discontinued.
The public hearing takes place on Tuesday, April 1, also at 6:00 p.m. at the Social Services Center at Hillsborough Commons on Mayo Street in Hillsborough.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s three high schools are holding “mock crash” events this spring to raise awareness of the dangers of impaired and distracted driving.
The events will begin with an assembly, followed by a crash reenactment in the footbal stadium. A UNC Air Care helicopter will land in the stadium as well, to simulate transport of an injured victim.
The mock crashes will take place at Carrboro High School on Friday, March 21; at East Chapel Hill High on Wednesday, April 9; and at Chapel Hill High on Friday, May 2 during the school day.
The Greater Chapel Hill Association of REALTORS has earned a grant to promote affordable housing in the local community.
The grant comes from the Housing Opportunity Program of the National Association of REALTORS; the Greater Chapel Hill branch will use the funds to produce a housing expo in Chatham County.
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Amanda Bennett will be on campus Thursday, March 20, speaking as part of UNC’s Women in Media Leadership Series.
Working for the Wall Street Journal, Bennett won the Pulitzer in 1997 for her coverage of the AIDS crisis, and a second Pulitzer with The Oregonian for an expose of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She’s also the author of “The Cost of Hope,” a book about confronting death in the context of the U.S. healthcare system.
Bennett’s talk will begin at 5:30 p.m. on March 20 in the Freedom Forum Conference Center in Carroll Hall. It’s free and open to the public.
This weekend, a nationally-recognized dance choreographer will be in the Triangle to support arts education in local schools.
Jacques d’Amboise is the principal dancer-choreographer for the NYC Ballet. He’s in town from Thursday through Saturday, March 20-22, to support NC Arts in Action – which provides in-school and afterschool dance programs for kids, based on a model d’Amboise developed back in the 1970s.
On Thursday d’Amboise will be in Chapel Hill, meeting with fourth-graders at Northside Elementary School.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/biking-drinking-recycling-driving-housing-reporting-dancing/
CARRBORO- Once again, a group of Chapel Hill middle schoolers looks like a sure bet to bring home the gold in a national science challenge. No matter that, we’re all winners, thanks to the work they do.
“We’re the Trash Terminators 2.0,” Rohan Deshpande announced to aldermen and spectators at Carrboro Town Hall. ”We’re working towards the Lexus Eco Challenge.”
Rohan, a student at Phillips Middle School, is the mainstay member of Trash Terminators, a group of science-minded Chapel Hill kids with a mission to protect the planet from greenhouse gas and methane emissions.
Last year, Rohan and two other students won first place in Siemens’ national “We Can Change the World” challenge. This past Tuesday night, Rohan told Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen how they did it.
“We diverted 25 percent of our trash from going to a landfill,” he reported.
This year’s team of Rohan, Vincent Chen, Elizabeth Farmer, Quentin Sieredzki and Graeme Zimmermann is keeping it going. They’ve entered into the Lexus Eco Challenge, where they’ve made it to the national section. The money they won from that so far has gone back into green initiatives at their school.
The challenge gives teams the opportunity to win up to $30,000 in grants and scholarships for the best ideas about protecting the environment.
During this school year, the Terminators have been addressing a situation created by the closing of the Orange County Landfill last summer.
“This means that trash is being transported to a location that is more than a hundred miles away,” Rohan observed. “This is also adding costs, and creates more pollution.”
The Terminators used a carbon footprint calculator to determine that for every ton of trash the city ships to the new landfill, 57 pounds of carbon dioxide will be emitted, and $55 of taxpayer money will be spent.
The kids also figured out that 55 percent of Phillips’ cafeteria trash is compostable waste. So they started a composting program at the school.
Terminator Quentin told aldermen how they did it.
“We set up composting bins in our school cafeteria,” he said, “in which students and staff dump all their compostable food items, which include food waste, food trays and napkins.”
Brooks Contractor in Goldston collects the compost twice a week. Liquid waste has been diverted from the trash, and recycling efforts have been ramped up.
“Our goal is to send only pure trash to the landfill, which will reduce carbon emission and cost,” said Quentin.
The students managed to reduce trash pickups as well, which saved Phillips School money.
Terminator Vincent Chen said it’s been a schoolwide effort, with students, teachers, administrators, staff and parents involved.
“In the lunchroom, we had parents, students and volunteers to help students with composting during lunch.”
There was a charitable component as well.
“We also started a ‘giving table’ where we keep all the uneaten and unopened food,” said Vincent.
The food is distributed to families on meal plans, and it’s available to students and staff as well.
“We diverted more than 80 percent of the trash going to a landfill by recycling and composting,” said Vincent. “We will divert 20,500 pounds of trash over 180 state days of school at Phillips.”
The plan saves about $550 in gas by reducing shipping. And it will prevent about 574 pounds of carbon from being released into the atmosphere. The kids figure that if all area middle schools adopted this initiative, there would be 41 tons less of trash in landfills over the next school year.
The Terminators spread the word with public information tables, a Time Warner infomercial, and social media outreach.
And they conducted a survey that showed how most citizens would like to see municipal composting.
Alderman Sammy Slade, like all his colleagues, was impressed.
“I would like to partner with y’all to find out how we could do this in Carrboro,” he said. “Because you have so much knowledge.”
Slade recommended that the kids approach the school board about using some of the savings on even more green initiatives.
Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell suggested that the kids look to the State Department of Environmental Resources Division of Solid Waste for a grant.
“Now more than ever, not only municipally, but in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but in the county, we need this,” she said, “because of the landfill.”
Alderman Damon Seils had the last word, by stating what must have been on everyone’s mind.
“I was just going to make the observation that Chapel Hill and Carrboro just got schooled by the Trash Terminators,” said Seils.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/trash-terminators-2-0-take-carrboro-composting-school/
HILLSBOROUGH – Thursday night, the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to conduct two more public hearings on a contentious recycling issue in Orange County.
Orange County Solid Waste Management Director Gayle Wilson told Commissioners Thursday that a proposed tax for expanded curbside recycling would not hit residents too hard in the wallet, compared to past fees for the service.
“At this rate, a property valued at $250,000 would pay about $37.50,” Wilson said. “Those properties that are currently located within our service area used to pay $38, so it’s fairly close.”
Wilson broke down the preliminary cost estimate for a proposed service district that would add about 8,000 parcels to the existing 13,750 households, with residents that had been paying a fee for curbside recycling.
That was until a court ruled in December 2012 that the county has no authority to tack the fees onto property tax bills.
Wilson reported that the estimated cost to implement expanded curbside service is $630.000, or about 1.5 cents per $100 of property value.
It’s meeting with some resistance from people that live in rural areas, where gravel driveways can extend the length of a road sometimes. That’s a long way to push the roll carts that would have to be purchased and distributed.
Early in Thursday night’s discussion, Commissioner Earl McKee expressed skepticism about the plan, after reading in the report that only 57 percent of people who paid the fee set out their recycling at the curb regularly.
“My point is that there were multiple thousands of people that were paying the 3R curbside fee that were not using the service,” McKee said. “They either were not recycling, or they were taking it to the convenience center.”
Solid waste convenience centers, such as those in Efland and Hillsborough, are a popular choice than curbside recycling for some rural residents.
That constituency was well-represented at Thursday night’s meeting in Hillsborough, where several citizens spoke out against the proposed service district, and just one citizen spoke in favor of it.
That brought Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier to conclude that the county failed to advertise to the public that recycling would be on the meeting agenda Thursday evening. If it had, more of those in favor of the tax district may have shown up.
“Part of the problem that we face is that there isn’t really good data on some of the things we’re considering,” Pelissier said, “because it sends up being opinions – people’s opinions or perceptions about what may happen, what has happened, and why, etc.”
On February 4, the Board will decide on the dates and locations of two more public hearings about recycling. Commissioners say they want more information from staff on alternatives to the district tax, including funding the program voluntarily through a subscription service or drawing from the general fund.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/orange-commissioners-seek-public-input-recycling/