Buncombe prepares for trash collection fee increase

Buncombe County seal

Buncombe County residents are paying more to buy just about everything than they were a year ago — according to the latest available figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual inflation rate for the region including Buncombe was 8.1% as of October. Come 2023, they’ll be paying more to get rid of that stuff as well.

Waste Pro, Buncombe’s waste management contractor, will bump the rate it charges customers for trash pickup by 7.9% at the start of the year. That increase, which works out to an extra $1.62 per month, is tied to inflation and is required under Waste Pro’s contract with the county.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, Waste Pro will also ask the county Board of Commissioners to authorize an additional rate hike of 39 cents per month. According to a presentation shared with the board, that increase will partially offset the company’s costs for processing recyclables.

Emails between Waste Pro and Barry Lawson, president of the Curbside Management facility that processes Buncombe’s recycling, show that those costs have skyrocketed over the past year. Whereas Waste Pro received rebates $19-$60 per ton for mixed recycling in November 2021, the company must now pay $31-$63 per ton for Curbside to accept the material.

Chip Gingles, the Waste Pro regional vice president who serves Buncombe, cited “volatility in the commodity market” as the main driver of these increased costs. If approved, the higher rate for county residents would be effective immediately.

In other news

The board is set to pick up a discussion about poverty in Buncombe County that it began in August. Commissioners had asked county staff for more information after learning that Buncombe’s poverty rate went up from 2018 to 2020, even as state and national poverty levels decreased over the same period.

New data available prior to the meeting shows that over 11% of working Buncombe residents ages 16-64 — and 19% of the county’s disabled residents — fall under the federal poverty line. Moreover, 9% of all county residents ages 65 and older are in poverty.

At 3%, Buncombe enjoys the lowest unemployment rate in North Carolina. However, the Asheville metropolitan area’s median wage of about $37,400 falls under the statewide median of roughly $38,400. “The most recent data suggests that Buncombe County (and Asheville MSA) average wages are flattening while North Carolina average wages are continuing to rise,” notes a county presentation.

Consent agenda and public comment

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains six items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. In addition to the routine approval of previous meeting minutes, the agenda includes a budget amendment to accept roughly $42,700 in grant funding for the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. The money will fund equipment and technology to improve the office’s investigative capabilities.

The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link. The commissioners’ regularly scheduled briefing prior to the meeting at 3 p.m. has been canceled.

In-person public comment will be taken at the start of the regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in room 326 at 200 College St., Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and the regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the News Editor of Mountain Xpress, coordinating coverage of Western North Carolina's governments, community groups, businesses and environment. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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