Buncombe County residents have questions about the county’s deal with residential waste collection contractor Waste Pro — a lot of questions. “Last week, there was a point where the switchboard, the phone system itself, wasn’t functioning because so many calls were coming in,” said Chip Gingles, the company’s divisional vice president for North Carolina, at a Sept. 17 pre-meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.
County staff did not provide advance public notice of the pre-meeting, which followed an announced work session on the county’s strategic planning effort with consultant Rebecca Ryan.
In response to those concerns, the board asked Gingles and Dane Pedersen, the county’s solid waste director, to present an update on the new Waste Pro service, which is scheduled to go into effect on Wednesday, Jan. 1. That presentation was not listed on the commission’s agenda prior to its Sept. 17 regular meeting and was added by unanimous vote of the board.
Many customers, Pedersen said, were confused over what would be included in the $19.21 monthly service fee. He explained that the cost covers the required rental of two containers from Waste Pro, one for trash and one for recycling, as well as weekly trash pickup and recycling collection every two weeks.
That charge represents a $3.13 monthly increase for customers who are not currently renting containers from Waste Pro. However, Pedersen said, mandating cart rental will improve efficiency and make all containers compatible with the company’s new collection vehicles.
Gingles said that customers can choose among 48-, 64- and 96-gallon carts. The deadline for that selection, which can be made online at avl.mx/6j0 or by phone at 828-585-5074, is Tuesday, Oct. 1; those who miss the deadline, he added, will be assigned the 96-gallon carts by default. Bear-proof containers are available at an additional one-time cost of $300 each.
Commissioner Mike Fryar noted that several of his constituents had expressed concerns over the new cart requirements. Elderly residents living in rural areas, he said, often found the large cans unwieldy, especially if they had to maneuver them down long mountain driveways from their houses to the curb.
Fryar told the story of a 77-year-old resident, living on a fixed monthly income of $757, for whom the required container rental represented both a financial and logistical burden. “One bag of trash is basically what she has. She could get it down to the end of the road with her car [for pickup], but now she has no way to do that,” he said.
“One of our slogans is ‘Caring For Our Communities,’ and that’s what we’re all about,” Gingles responded. He said Waste Pro was working with county staff to develop solutions for residents with special circumstances but did not name any specific initiatives.
Residents who choose not to subscribe to Waste Pro service can take their trash and recycling to either the Buncombe County Transfer Station, 190 Hominy Creek Road, Asheville, or the Buncombe County Landfill, 85 Panther Branch Road, Alexander. Both locations charge $2 to accept a 33-gallon bag of household waste; there is currently no charge for recycling, and a list of accepted materials is available at avl.mx/6iv.