NEWBERRY – The Newberry City Commission is weighing whether to accept the county’s Municipal Service Business Unit (MSBU) solid waste management assessment or defer to an alternate plan such as a transfer station surcharge per ton.
Alachua County Waste Collection Manager Patrick Irby and Alachua County Environmental Program Manager Gus Olmos were on hand at the city commission meeting to discuss the solid waste and resource recovery aspect of the MSBU.
Irby explained that MSBU is a funding mechanism for solid waste management activities that cover the entire county.
The four services that are funded by the Solid Waste Management Assessment are the five rural collection centers, which Irby says are open to everybody, engineering and compliance monitoring at landfills, the Office of Waste Alternatives, which is the education branch, and household hazardous waste, which is currently part of Environmental Protection.
The program funds the five rural collection centers, which provide drop-off sites for garbage, recycling, yard debris and household hazardous waste. They also provide re-use areas for gently used items. “The solid waste management assessment covers 36 percent of the rural collection center operations,” said Irby.
Although the main facility for collection and disposal of hazardous waste is located adjacent to the Leveda Brown Environmental Park, there are collection areas located at all five rural collection centers as well.
Two special collection events are held in Newberry each year, but this has been temporarily suspended this year due to COVID-19.
Engineering and compliance monitoring is another mandatory function funded under the MSBU. Four closed landfills throughout the county are monitored for leachate, methane, water contamination and other factors that might impact the environment.
The Office of Waste Alternatives provides public education and community outreach in the areas of recycling, composting and litter reduction. The “Tools for Schools” program also falls under this office. “We provide tools for teachers and students who need items to be able to function in school,” he said. “It’s amazing how many students arrive to school with nothing…no paper, pencils or anything else,” Irby said. “This has become a larger program than we initially thought it would be.” This office also initiates special event recycling and waste audits.
“A lot of our funding comes from tipping and processing fees at the transfer station,” said Irby. “That funding primarily will go to processing of recycled materials; sorting, bailing; all of that costs a surprising amount of money.” Irby said that when markets are bad like they are currently the cost is more. “It pays for the transportation of waste to the landfill in Union County, the disposal of the waste up at the landfill and always the administration expenses as well as the assessments,” said Irby.
While there are three assessments that are overseen, only one of them is applied inside municipalities. The rural collection assessment collects 64 percent of the total expenses for the rural collection centers and that is the portion attributed to residents in unincorporated Alachua County who are outside of the curbside program. “The remainder of the rural collection center assessment is inside the solid waste management, and that’s the part of folks who are inside municipalities or are in the curbside program. The solid waste management assessment is the only one we apply inside city limits,” said Irby.
Explaining how the assessment is calculated, Irby said, “It is divided between commercial parcels and residential units based on percentages of overall waste stream and benefits received.” The primary groups are Single-Family Residential, Multi-Family Residential (apartment complexes), Residential Customers who do not receive curbside collection services (mostly unincorporated county) and Commercial.
“The goal in the calculation is to pretty much just break even,” Irby said.
As an alternative to the Solid Waste Management Assessment, Irby said there would be a transfer station surcharge per ton. He believes the surcharge would be equal to the annual assessment for single-family residential units. This method would also require the waste hauler to segregate waste from non-assessed municipalities from all other waste collected for the purpose of accurately weighing waste from that particular city. The cost to the municipality in that case would be based on the actual tonnage.
Commissioners were not required to vote on whether they wanted to go with the Solid Waste Management Assessment or the alternative during the meeting. The presentation was mostly for information-gathering purposes. However, at some point the City will have to decide which way they want to go
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