Sanitation fees in the unincorporated portions of Effingham County will be going up by $20.
County commissioners approved, in a 5-0 vote, to raise the garbage pickup fee from $180 to $200, which also includes the cost of the county’s recycling program.
Commissioners approved countywide recycling last August after a successful pilot program. The county absorbed the original cost of $2.90 per month for the recycling carts through its sanitation reserves.
"We would have increased our sanitation fee slightly, even without recycling," said County Administrator David Crawley. "We’ve been able to use some of our reserve funds to offset those costs."
Crawley said the county’s waste disposal contractor, Republic Waste Services, wanted to establish a baseline after a year of recycling.
"We’ve only been at this for six months," he said.
County officials have said that adding a recycling cart could take the place of a second regular garbage cart for residents, which costs $108 per month.
"Most of my stuff goes into recycling," said Commissioner Bob Brantley.
Commissioner Steve Mason noted his original doubts about recycling. But he’s been in favor of it since the end of the pilot program.
"I was the most skeptical of everybody on recycling," he said. "I expected to hear a lot from people that they weren’t really interested in recycling. But in fact, what we got was only a couple of (comments) recorded that were negative. A lot of people are using recycling.
"Going from two carts to one has saved a lot of money."
The county’s tonnage at the landfill also has been cut, and the county could get a reduction on its contract with Republic Waste Services when it comes up again, Mason added.
"The landfill cost is going to increase," he said, "so the idea of reducing the amount into the landfill is a good idea."
According to Crawley, the county will look to renegotiate its disposal fee after the contract expires.
"We’re looking at reducing our disposal fee," Crawley said.
The county also currently gets a break on its fuel surcharge, Crawley added. For every 30 cents that diesel fuel increases, only 13 cents of that hike is passed on to the county.
"Some of those factors will come into the renegotiation," he said.
Mason said his family uses therecycling cart so much they could reduce their garbage pickup to once every two weeks — "if it wasn’t for the odor," he joked.
But former commissioner Mack Thompson voiced his discontent with the fee increase.
"All I can see is fees going up," he said. "There are people out there struggling. I’m paying taxes, but I’m paying fees for everything. I’m paying fees, and what am I getting for it?"
Brantley said the county is continuing to absorb the cost of the recycling program, since the increase could be $35.
"We’re charging less than it what it was originally supposed to cost," he said.
Citizens also complained about problems with the RecycleBank points system. County officials said they will attempt to explain to customers how the points system works and how customers can sign up for it and redeem their points. Crawley said they are working with the school system to set it up as a potential recipient of points on the recycling rewards system.
Elderly residents who fall in the school exemption category will pay half the regular rate for sanitation service.