Meg Hibbert Contributing writer
Faced with a near-record crowd, members of the Craig County Board of Supervisors voted by a split vote of 3-2 to pass the 2017-18 budget that included keeping the Rt. 42 trash transfer site open for another year.
The sticking point for cutting out the 24-hour site was $70,000 Craig County could save if it did not haul waste from Rt. 42 near Simmonsville to a disposal facility in Botetourt County.
Craig County Administrator Clay Goodman had recommended cutting out the Rt. 42 Craig County Convenience Center – its official name – as part of the budget preparations, because of the need to trim expenditures in the face of shrinking county revenue. Supervisors have been talking about the possibility for months during budget deliberations.
The money to pay for hauling trash will come from the county’s contingency fund, County Administrator Clay Goodman said.
More than 110 people crowded into the Craig County Circuit Courtroom (which has a posted capacity of 120 people) for the Supervisors’ meeting on May 2. Almost all of them raised their hands when asked if they use the Rt. 42 trash transfer site. Eighty-one of them signed a petition passed around in favor of keeping the site open.
Supervisors Chairman Jesse Spence said after the meeting that “I had a lot of calls concerning the Rt. 42 site. I did not hear much about schools,” referring to the $67,000 in local funds Craig County Schools asked for to match local contributions from last fiscal year. The school budget is a total of $8 million, with most coming from state and federal funds.
He thanked the crowd for coming to the Supervisors’ meeting, which normally draws only a dozen or so attendees. Vice Chairman Martha Murphy said after the meeting, “If passing a budget is what brings people out, that’s a good thing.”
Simmonsville Christmas tree farm owner Sue Bostic headed up the move to keep the Rt. 42 site open, and spoke on the crowd’s behalf.
After the meeting Bostic said, “We, the taxpayers who use the Rt. 42 transfer station, were very pleased that the board voted to continue to fund this site.” She added that she has volunteered to head up a group of citizens to brainstorm and come up with ways Craig County could cut the cost for the county for the transfer site.
Those include, “cutting transportation costs, controlling illegal dumping, compacting the trash and possibly how each household can help and cut back on bulk trash,” Bostic said. She asked anyone interested in helping to contact her at her business, Joe’s Trees, 540-544-7303.
When she spoke during the meeting, Bostic said domino effects that could increase costs for other agencies and groups of Craig County citizens if the Rt. 42 site were closed and people had to drive their disposables to the New Castle site would be:
- Trash dumping in the National Forest;
- Littering and dumping along county roads which could mean more costs for the Craig County Sheriff’s Office trying to catch and arrest people for littering and dumping;
- Individuals resorting to burning their trash to get rid of it;
- Attracting bears to illegal dumping sites, even though hunters strive to keep the woods clean;
- Farmers’ land being affected by illegal dumping;
- The Virginia Byway status of Rt. 42 and the county’s natural beauty could be compromised.
Bostic passed along Jonathan Lee’s comments that environmental impact on water quality could harm revenue to Craig County from hunting, fishing, farming and tourism.
Simmonsville-area resident Lonnie Lefler also spoke in favor of keeping the site open. He said if he had to take his trash to New Castle instead, “It’s going to cost me about $400 a year. The New Castle site is only open certain hours instead of 24 hours, and the only chance I have to take the trash is Saturday morning, if I don’t have to work.”
He added that taking away the Rt. 42 site would be doing away “with a basic service from two districts that pay about 54 percent of the county’s taxes,” and he asked Supervisors to find a better solution. “Think hard about it,” he urged.
County Administrator Goodman has also been recommending compacting trash to cut down on the number of truck hauling loads. He pointed out that if compacting is instituted, only household waste will be accepted. “Fence posts, engine parts and tires will not be accepted,” he said, mentioning how Bedford County handles wastes at its 14 sites with compactors.
Supervisors who voted in favor of keeping the Rt. 42 site open were Chairman Spence, Supervisors Casey McKenzie and Carl Bailey, with Supervisors Rusty Zimmerman and Martha Murphy voting no.
School Board Vice Chairman Sue Crenshaw said after the meeting she still has hopes the $67,000 can be restored to the school budget so that school programs do not have to be cut. “I’m optimistic it will be restored. All the cuts we have to make are going to be devastating.” The School Board is due to meet the first Tuesday of June to decide what to cut.