Legislative help unlikely for Solid Waste Authority

BROOKVILLE — The Jefferson County Solid Waste Authority recently discussed the likelihood of policy revisions that could help the authority’s funding predicament.

In particular, the authority has lobbied the state to again implement administrative fees, which could be used to reimburse the authority for every ton of waste material collected.

The legislature drafted House Bill 206, which would re-enstate that fee, but authority Recycling Coordinator Donna Cooper said she had spoken with Scott Hutchinson, chairman of the state Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, and he said the bill will likely not make it to the House floor.

“They perceive the fee as a new tax,” she said. “We have a governor right now that has said there will be no new fees. We’ve heard right from the horse’s mouth, the chairman, that this is going nowhere.”

Cooper and members of the authority do not consider the administrative fee to be a new tax, because it had perviously been on the books. The authority contacted state Rep. Sam Smith and asked for support, but Smith said he agreed that the fee would be a new tax.

“I know you believe this is not a new fee, but I would respectfully disagree with you on that point,” Smith said in a letter. “This legislation does propose a new fee, and ultimately, this fee will be passed on to the end user, waste consumers.”

Furthermore, Smith wrote the “impact of the new taxes or fees on the taxpayers and the effect it would have on our economy must be weighed carefully against the value of the program.”

The letter was not good news for the authority, which spent more than $20,000 from reserve accounts this year in order to balance an annual budget of only $120,000.

“Where are we going to get the money to run these programs without something coming from the legislature,” Cooper said. “Right now, nobody is stepping up to help us.”

In other business:

• Cooper reported the authority board will meet with the Jefferson County Commissioners April 19 to discuss funding issues and policy support.

• Cooper reported that the Solid Waste Association of North America has withdrawn financial support of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Technical Assistance Grant Program.

The program provided county authorities with up to $7,500 to hire a consultant regarding planning and management.

The loss of the grant was not considered major, but it is another elimination of funding options for the authority, she said.

• Cooper reported that municipal solid waste dropped for the second straight year. This year, waste generation was calculated at 4.34 pounds per day per person.

She said the decline in waste generation is due to a slow economy, less paper consumption, light-weight plastics and the implementation of zero waste goals by companies and communities.