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Posted: May 14, 2013 9:00 p.m.

Board mulls recycling center fee

One of the most significant discussions so far this budget year has been whether to institute a new fee for residents to use the county’s recycling centers.

Commissioners informally decided to set up a committee to study the issue and look at the entire solid waste operation, which includes both the landfill and recycling centers. Commissioner Levie Maddox, who works for scrap metal company LB Recycling, was tasked with heading up a committee with the goal of bringing back recommendations to the board before January.

A decision is unlikely to be made in time for the start of the next fiscal year, July 1, but commissioners could still institute a fee or decide on other changes for the second half of the year. Maddox said he believed there were other ways to increase revenues at the landfill.

Currently, the county’s landfill makes a significant profit, but the recycling centers cost more than $1 million to operate, with the sales of recyclables and scrap metal only bringing in around a fourth of that cost. As a result, the county loses money and has to cover the deficit with general fund dollars. The solid waste operation has its own separate fund and would ideally be self-sufficient.

However, the recycling centers are also one of the most popular county services and are widely used, officials said.

Right now, residents are able to use the recycling centers for free, and Chairman Keith Ellis said at a previous budget meeting that county workers have noticed a high number of residents with out-of-county tags who are likely using Newton County’s recycling centers illegally.

County Manager John Middleton said previously another problem is that people use the centers for commercial dumping, when they are only designed for residential use.

One of the most fair and plausible solutions might be for residents to purchase stickers, to display on their cars, that would allow them to use the recycling center. Many residents pay for private service, so putting a fee on the tax bill would seem to cast too wide a net, officials said.

In the initial budget presented in April, a solid waste user fee was listed as bringing in $354,063, but that’s just an estimate.

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