PRINCE GEORGE – For most rural communities, curbside trash service isn’t something that is typically provided, meaning convenience and recycling center where residents can drive their trash to be disposed of play a vital role in waste management efforts. 

Now, after receiving some questions and concerns from county residents, local leaders are in the preliminary stages of looking at adding an additional convenience center to the county’s trash disposal assets.

During their meeting this month, officials with the county planning department walked the Prince George Board of Supervisors through the process of researching and developing a full-service convenience center in the county, while providing useful data that could guide their decision-making when it comes to locating the facility.

Currently, the county has two convenience centers, one located along Union Branch Road and another located across the county in Burrowsville. Of those centers, the Burrowsville location is only open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. while the Union Branch site is open Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

While Burrowsville only takes waste, both the Union Branch site and the container located at the government complex near the school board and social services office accept recyclables.

With that information, planning officials laid out which centers are within a 15-minute drive of either the Burrowsville and Union Branch sites and, while most of the county’s residents could reach one of the two sites within that timeframe, there are pockets of the community who aren’t, including those in the southern reaches of Carson and those close to the Sussex County border between Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 460. 

While no specific locations for a new center were discussed, the board was given direction on what they should consider when it comes to building a new center anywhere in the county, using what Prince George’s neighbors do when it comes to waste disposal as a guide.

In their report, the planning office looked at five communities that surround Prince George – Dinwiddie, Sussex, Surry, and James City Counties – and evaluated their assets, their total population, if they charge fees to dispose of waste, how much trash they generate, how that trash is handled, either by the locality or through a third-party or contractor. 

According to their data, James City County, with a population of just over 73,000 people has 3 centers and a transfer station, which is operated by the locality. 

Prince George has the next highest population at nearly 38,000 and has the one center and one garbage site, paired with the recycling container at the government complex. James City and Prince George are the only localities of the five looked at to charge fees to residents for disposal. 

Dinwiddie, with a population of 27,852, has seven convenience centers, along with a landfill facility, followed by Sussex with 8 centers and a landfill for its 11,715 residents and Surry County with 4 centers for its 6,700 locals to utilize for its disposal needs. 

In addition, of the five looked at by the county planning office, Prince George generates the least amount of garbage when compared to its neighbors. In their data, Prince George’s sites generate 1,800 tons annually, while sites in Surry generate 3,700 tons per year, James City’s locations generate 4,300 tons, and Sussex’s centers take in over 5,300 tons on an annual basis.

When looking at the possibility of a new site, officials said, while not directly recommending the county stop charging residents for trash disposal, the imposition of fees on county users could have an impact on usage of the facilities, noting the current practice at the Union Branch site of using a scale to weigh cars on their way in and out to determine the charge is “non-standard” and, if implemented at a new site, would be an additional expense as most facilities do not use scales, including the ones looked at by the county in their research.

The county planning department also presented a base model for what a center could look like in the county, using Dinwiddie’s Old Stage Road facility as a guide. In total, the site would be estimated to cost $171,000, featuring “four open-top roll-off containers for large items, six dumpsters for single stream [recycling], two compactors for trash, [and] one carport for miscellaneous shelter.” That price tag would conceptually include the cost of the two acres needed to develop the one-acre center, along with various site preparations and other required engineering tasks to bring the facility to fruition.

In comparison, Dinwiddie’s Old Stage Road facility cost roughly $130,000 while Sussex’s facility totaled around $150,000.

Other optional features, such as asphalt paving, scales and ramps, and retaining walls for grade-level disposal would also increase the cost of the facility.

Finally, should the county decide to build the facility, supervisors would need to look at who will operate it. Currently, Meridian, also known as Container First Services, operates the county’s facility and hauls away the trash. The county could choose to continue to use Meridian at the facility, open bidding for a new contractor or simply opt to operate the facility in-house, something some supervisors do not seem to have an interest in.

“I know we did operate Union Branch Road in-house and that was expensive,” Prince George Board of Supervisors Chairman Alan Carmichael said during the work session. “After the collections were made and the expenses were paid, the county was in the hole about $185,000 per year. By outsourcing to CFS, we began to see those savings of what we didn’t have to pay out to operate that facility.”

As the supervisors listened to the presentation, the board seems interested in having the matter be discussed early next year as part of their budget-building process.

“I think we need to be discussing this when we get into the budget because this will have a drastic impact on it,” Supervisor Floyd Brown, Jr. remarked. “Until we fully understand the funds for this current year and get some information on this over the next few meetings, we need to look at this over the budget cycle.”

Supervisor Marlene Waymack, who was approached by concerned residents in her district echoed the sentiments of her fellow board members.

“I think we need to consider this because people have asked for this, but we have to constrain ourselves to the budget before us,” she said.

No formal proposal to build a facility has been made and it is unknown if or when this matter will be brought before the board as an official request.

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing