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.