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Buckingham County secures local garbage sites

Buckingham County now has an amended Solid Waste Management Ordinance intended to reduce abuse and misuse of county waste sites.

Rebecca Carter

The amended ordinance, approved unanimously by supervisors at the Monday, July 13, Board of Supervisors meeting, limits the amount of county decals available to non-resident property owners and those claiming a farm use exemption.

County Administrator Rebecca Carter said the county’s initial motivation with the amendment was to bring the ordinance in sync with Buckingham’s new gated waste sites and to give a better explanation as to who is entitled to get waste permits and dispose of waste at the sites.

Anyone with a valid and current county decal proving they are a resident of Buckingham County can have access to the county’s waste sites, but those without a decal have been able to dispose of waste provided that they obtained a household waste permit, which the county does not have the ability to charge a fee for.

Officials felt a lack of restrictions on the amount of permits given per household and fewer requirements to obtain a permit meant many were taking advantage of the system in place and using the sites to dump materials that weren’t generated within the county.

Carter said officials found over the last year 700 permits were issued to people who did not have a county decal to signify residency. At $25 per decal, that’s a $17,500 loss, although it’s difficult in hindsight to determine just how many of the permits were issued to people attempting to take advantage of the situation.

Since last summer, six of the county’s seven solid waste sites have been gated. Carter said once the new gated system was put in place, new county decals effective April 30 were issued with embedded chips that allow the gates to open.

The permits used by non-resident property owners and those with farm use vehicles could no longer access the sites, and the county decided to restructure the requirements in place to provide a chipped decal to those qualified to use the sites but exempt from a county decal.

The new Solid Waste Management Ordinance allows, under certain restrictions,  for non-resident property owners to be allotted one chipped decal to dispose of household waste, and farmers who file a Schedule F farm tax or can show proof of having a working farm in the county can also be allocated one chipped decal.

To get that decal, all taxes must be current and any vehicle that should be registered in the county must be registered in Buckingham and must have a valid county decal.

“We do feel some were taking advantage of the waste permits, which is unfortunate because it brought cause for the county to have to look at the ordinance and be more restrictive,” Carter said.

She added the ordinance amendments also clarify that those who have Farm Use tags that are not registered with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles must show proof they are a working farm and sign a document that they will dispose of only household waste in the containers.

Carter said officials discussed a fee for a solid waste site access permit in order to not have to associate the county decal with solid waste access, but the county does not have the authority to charge a fee. She said officials are seeking General Assembly approval to do so in the future.

“I would like to add to the citizens that this may not mean the county would be imposing a new fee/tax,” she continued. “A possibility would be to reduce the cost of the county decal to $15 and charge a $10 fee for a solid waste site access decal for everyone.  This is an example, but of course would be decided by the Board of Supervisors.  This would require everyone using the sites to have paid for the access decal.”

According to Carter, cameras at various county waste sites have shown some visitors attempting to bend the arms to the gate and even piggyback off of others to try to get into the site quickly behind a vehicle with a proper county decal.

“We do have a camera system at every site that monitors every vehicle that enters and we can even identify that vehicle by the decal number,” she added. “I have noticed we have had some business trucks disposing of business construction and debris that have a valid county decal. We are looking into how to remedy that.”

She added the rewritten ordinance may also help lower the cost of operation of Buckingham’s Solid Waste Management, which averages between $800,000 and $1 million per year.

“We are already seeing a decrease in the waste at the gated sites, and once all are gated we feel we will see significant savings.”

Carter concluded by stating the county is working on developing a plan for the Dillwyn site, the only site not currently gated, and that upon completion all sites will be available to citizens at all times with proper access decals.