The Nevada County Quorum Court revisited the new trash collection fee first proposed in their December meeting twice since the first of the year after a refresher on Arkansas Law forced the county government to start all over again.
The Court addressed the fee in a vote during their regular January meeting, voting to reduce the rate from $120 per year to $100 per year. However, after the initial attempt to pass the ordinance and the following amending of the rate, Judge Glass said he was advised that there was a problem with the December vote. The original vote on the trash fee ordinance ended in a 4-4 tie when one J.P. left the meeting early and the remaining eight were evenly split. Judge Glass stepped in and cast a tie-breaking vote to implement the fee. According to Glass, he was advised that the County Judge cannot vote to pass an ordinance. According to Arkansas Code, County Judges preside over Quorum Court meetings and do have the power of veto but do not have a vote.
The initial vote on the trash collection fee, being invalid, made the adjustment of rates during the January meeting moot so the Court decided to call the special meeting two days later to start the process again.
The original reason given for the proposed fee during the December meeting was because the Upper Southwest Regional Solid Waste Management District’s fee for transporting the county’s household trash to its landfill near Nashville increased from $100 per load to $150 per load starting the beginning of this year and is set to increase to $200 per load starting in 2021. When initially proposing it, Judge Glass said that the Solid Waste Department is struggling financially and the doubling of fees the county pays over the next year would put the department in a place where action had to be taken for it to continue to operate.
During discussions at the special meeting, J.P. Patricia Grimes said she sought confirmation for herself and was told that the county’s compactor needs to be replaced, highlighting one of several examples given regarding the county’s struggling Solid Waste Department. Other issues brought up included the department’s bulldozer, which reportedly also is need of replacing, increased tipping fees and the fact that Solid Waste has not even been covering its own fuel costs. According to Judge Glass, the Road and Bridge Department has been covering the struggling department’s fuel expenses.
J.P. Chris Fore appeared frustrated throughout the meeting, telling his fellow J.P.’s and the Judge that the $100 fee on residents wasn’t the way to go about dealing with the problem the Solid Waste Department is having. Fore shared figures based on the high-end estimate of loads transported to the Upper Southwest Regional Landfill that indicated that the cost would at most be around $52,000 per year, far less than the more than $180,000 the county would collect off the new fee. Fore said the increase this year and next year was given as the reason for the fee questioned why the need for a new compactor and bulldozer weren’t brought up when the county was working out the details for the 2020 budget.
J.P. Bob Cummings said he would rather reduce the fees in the future than to come back and impose rate increases later. Fore responded that the county would never come back to reduce the fees and that the money would just be spent.
After hours of discussion over the course of three meetings, an invalid vote to pass the fee ordinance and a meaningless vote to amend the invalid ordinance, a motion was proposed to vote on the ordinance, which was a boilerplate taken from another county. J.P. Fore pressed that the ordinance be read, pointing out that law requires the ordinance to be read.
During County Clerk Julie Oliver’s reading, J.P.’s learned that some of the assurances they were given and the method of collection in the ordinance weren’t quite what had been discussed. After some discussion, the court agreed to amending the ordinance, removing language that would impose late fees and service charges. The amended ordinance was passed 6-2 with J.P.’s Chris Fore and Brenda Stockton voting against it. J.P. Willie Wilson was not present for the vote.
The ordinance implements a $100 annual fee on all residences that get a homestead credit and exempts deer camps, churches and businesses for now, though some have expressed interest in amending to include businesses but are giving the Chamber of Commerce time to look into the impact it would have.