Pasquotank Commissioners ignore citizen concerns, wasting $1 million in the process


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PASQUOTANK COUNTY — For the last three years, many citizens here have questioned the County Commissioners of this northeastern North Carolina county about various operations and costs associated with the management of the Pasquotank County landfill, under the supervision of the county-run Solid Waste Department.

Those familiar with the matter believe that elected officials, an advisory board known as the Solid Waste Committee, and the office of the Pasquotank County Manager have routinely ignored the concerns of these taxpayers.

In an attempt to explain the problems associated with the Pasquotank County landfill, this first article will compare the cost of operating Pasquotank’s landfill with other comparable government-run operations in our area.

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Let’s first examine Beaufort County, not too far south.

Beaufort County assesses an annual fee for Solid Waste of $90 against each property, compared to Pasquotank’s $144 annual assessment – a significant difference. On a per capita basis, it costs Pasquotank $102.79 per citizen to handle its Solid Waste versus just $67.36 per citizen in Beaufort County. Despite the fact that Beaufort County has 8,396 more residents than Pasquotank, its solid waste department costs $832,423 less per year to operate than that of Pasquotank County.

One major difference between Beaufort County and Pasquotank County is that Beaufort has hired a third-party contractor to provide all trash removal services. The contractor trucks all solid waste — of each and every kind — from Beaufort County all the way to the Bertie County landfill, which is a distance of at least 50 miles one way.

Beaufort County pays Bertie County all required fees. And, Bertie County accepts the same type of trash that now goes into the Pasquotank County landfill.

Another difference is that Beaufort County is much larger in geography than Pasquotank, and offers several more convenience sites for Beaufort County citizens. And, the trucks that pick up from convenience sites drive much longer distances than is the case in Pasquotank County. Yet overall annual costs remain lower.

In the chart below, you will note the cost of the Solid Waste Departments of several counties:

Click on chart to enlarge

Click on chart to enlarge

Now let’s compare Pasquotank to the counties of Gates, Perquimans and Chowan!

We find that the population of these three counties is 1300 people greater than Pasquotank, thereby making this analysis roughly comparable. These three counties banded together several years ago in order to achieve economies of scale that they would not be able to accomplish individually.

In this instance, the primary solid waste operation is in the Belvidere Community of Perquimans County. The solid waste refuse is trucked into the Perquimans County transfer station and ultimately from there to the Perquimans County landfill.

Vegetative debris like yard waste and fallen trees is trucked to the Bertie County landfill where all fees are paid.

In Pasquotank County, a ‘Construction & Demolition’ section of the landfill accepts vegetative debris – thus there exists a minor discrepancy in our comparison – and hopefully a cost-saver since disposal is closer than trucking such material to Bertie County.

Otherwise, the operations of these solid waste departments are comparable.

The Tri County operation is manned by county employees, not contractors, with the employees receiving county benefits, just like Pasquotank. Readers may be surprised to learn that the total costs of operations for these three counties are $1.3 million less than that of Pasquotank, all other things being roughly equal.

In comparing solid waste costs per citizen, Tri-County is $66.96 per citizen, or 35 percent lower than the significantly higher $102.79 cost per citizen in Pasquotank (previously cited). Note that the cost per citizen in Beaufort and Tri County is only 40 cents apart – and a whopping $35 less per citizen than in Pasquotank County.

At the conclusion of the last Pasquotank County Commission meeting, many board members spoke approvingly about the work of the staff, having achieved a balanced budget with no tax increase.

However, Commissioner Griffin spoke up and reminded everyone that this had been accomplished by cutting spending requested by the School Board and College of The Albemarle. The public school system was asked to operate on $1.7 million less than requested, while elected officials also denied College of The Albemarle approximately $6 million in funding for capital improvements.

To his credit, Griffin also pointed out that ‘kicking these cans down the road until next year’ did not mean that these problems had gone away. Nevertheless, the commissioner did not suggest reducing other spending – as a means of freeing up available funds for the schools and other worthwhile projects.

We hope that the apparent overages outlined in this article might be one place to start.

Editor’s note: There are other elements to this story, which we will detail in a series of follow-up articles.