CHAPEL HILL — The county commissioners, after two votes in less than a week, has decided to pay for next year’s urban and rural curbside recycling with $2 million in savings.
Thursday’s decision expanded a plan the commissioners had approved Tuesday to use $728,260 in reserves to provide 15,000 rural customers with a year of curbside service at no charge.
Before Thursday’s night’s county vote, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough had planned to charge homeowners $59 and apartment dwellers $19 next year for a contract with the county.
But Wednesday, Chapel Hill Town Council members said the county’s first vote was disappointing and unfair to town residents. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt asked commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs to give all residents the same deal.
The commissioners have talked for months about inequalities in the current recycling program. It’s unfair to charge town residents for convenience centers they don’t use, they said, or to charge rural residents who use the convenience centers for curbside recycling.
Commissioner Mark Dorosin suggested this week dropping fees and using taxes to fund the convenience centers. The solid waste reserves could pay for recycling, he said.
This week’s decision leaves about $1 million in the solid waste reserve fund available to meet other needs. Another $13 million is set aside to pay for closing the Eubanks Road Landfill.
The commissioners have known since late 2012 the county would have to replace a fee that previously paid for its curbside recycling program. A state Supreme Court ruling cast doubt on the county’s authority to collect the fee.
In April, the commissioners rejected other proposed options, including a solid waste tax service district.
Commissioners also voted this week to form a 15-member Solid Waste Advisory Group to spend a year looking at recycling and solid waste options.
The county’s most immediate needs are planning for a possible solid waste transfer station and future recycling and solid waste services. Jacobs said the advisory group also could help resolve lingering issues that have delayed a new solid waste agreement with the towns.
Council members were supportive of forming an advisory group but had concerns about its makeup. The commissioners will talk about recycling again June 17.