Pam Dudding-Burch Contributing writer
That’s what Simmonsville residents have been doing, especially since their trash collection site was upgraded last year. The improved facilities have been open to the public since late fall of 2016 and many have expressed their gratitude.
“The County has placed open top containers at the site for more than twenty years,” Craig County Administrator Clay Goodman said. However, it now seems that there is a controversy of whether the County can continue to afford it. He added that approximately $174,000 was spent last year on the Rt. 42 site.
Countless letters, phone calls, Facebook posts and visits over this issue have occurred over the last few weeks. There have been proposals from both sides. At the April 6 Board meeting, Goodman made a recommendation to hold the decision on the 42 site until it could be discussed during the budget work session. Many letters were sent to the Supervisors office.
Board member Martha Murphy, who represents the Simmonsville District, encouraged citizens to voice their opinions and to do it quickly as the decision is to be made at the Board meeting on May 4. “When a suggestion was made at the April 6 Board of Supervisors meeting to close the 42-trash site, I felt compelled to poll a few of the residents who live toward the Giles/Craig border of both districts to see what their feelings were towards county tax dollars supporting this service,” Murphy said.
The proposal was to consider “indefinitely closing the Route 42 convenience station to possibly save at least $70,000” with the justification that “this station serves a small percentage of residents at increasing costs and management problems.”
The poll included these questions:
1- What Carl Bailey and I need to know is how important it this trash collection site to you and your neighbors?
2- What are your thoughts on transporting your own household refuge to the 615-transfer station if that would be your only option?
3- How do you think you and your neighbors benefit from this Route 42 transfer station located on county property near the Simmonsville Vol. Fire Dept. bldg?
4- Do you think this site helps reduce illegal dumping in our county?
5- How many landowners/taxpayers do you know directly benefit from this site?
(Any comments in support of maintaining and improving such a county services, or against it, are urgently needed!)
Murphy received over 60 emails and phone calls which were in favor of keeping the site open.
She added that citizens have been working together with the County and Solid Waste Supervising official Artley Bowman to diligently monitor costs and a proposal to seek engineering services relative to the purchase of a compactor and other permits and modifications to more effectively collect and haul trash. “The draft of this proposal was on our agenda but active pursuit was continued till our May meeting when this possible budget cut was proposed,” she said.
Though Murphy shares that she has strong feelings in favor of this site, she encouraged all citizens to respond. “We really need to hear from you to justify its support and growth with property tax dollars in this budget and in the future,” she said.
Still, other citizens chose to send their comments either publicly or to the local paper.
Rhonda Smith of Paint Bank said: “I was told by a friend that Pam Dudding of the New Castle Record is preparing an article on citizens of Craig’s viewpoints concerning the Route 42 Convenience Station being funded by the taxpayers of the County at a cost of $70,000 per year in hauling costs. This is appalling that all citizens of Craig are paying for a convenience of a few citizens when we do not have funds to do minor things to improve our community. I personally live in Paint Bank, which is probably one of the farthermost points of the County from the Main Transfer Station in New Castle. I am a single parent working a full-time job at minimum wage. I do not have time to go to the Transfer Station nor have the luxury of a “convenience dumping bin” in my community. Therefore, I have to pay a private hauler $30 a month to haul my trash weekly from my home. This is not easy on a limited income, but it is what I have to do because I love in the country and I do not mind the inconvenience because living out here is worth it. I was told that at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting last night that citizens from Simmonsville were crying about having their “Convenience Center” unfunded to save tax dollars. Well shame on them for thinking that “my tax dollars” should provide them with special services. And I also heard that the citizens and the Board of Supervisor representative for Simmonsville complained that Simmonsville citizens would start littering the roadways if the center was removed. These few people must think their population in Simmonsville lacks the intelligence to find alternatives for hauling as we do here in Paint Bank. Our citizens do not seem to litter our pristine community and roadways and we do not have a “convenience station”. I would like to know more about this and why our recycling program for the county was recently reduced because of lack of funds. To improve recycling would be a better use of these funds and improvements at our County Transfer Station. I have a friend that is passionate about recycling and has a business in the community that you should talk to about the use of tax money for recycling, Mattie Barns, the coffee roaster. I hope you write an article that includes the viewpoint of citizens from all areas of our community and hopefully talk to all the Board of Supervisors members on how they feel our tax dollars should be spent.”
Jeremy Bradley shared: “I am a concerned citizen of Craig County who has heard about the recent proposal by a Board member to close the Simmonsville Trash Collection Site. I’ve gone through the proposed budget, and I’m not even going to pretend that I understand the extent of it, but given the rate increases, and the upcoming new property values from the recent appraisals (I’d be shocked if real assessments have gone any since 2012), it seems that cutting out 70,000 from sanitation and giving a good chunk of the county at least an hour round trip drive to the site outside of New Castle would actually be detrimental to the county. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when the site on 42 has been closed. Back roads, namely Johns Creek Mountain (Route 658) become trashed very quickly. Tourism will decrease, people will move and/or not buy land in the western portion of the county. The environment will degrade and clean up costs will go up. So ask yourselves, is closing the Simmonsville trash collection site worth a “possible” immediate cost savings? In reference to a “small percentage of residents,” using U.S. census data from 2010 and GIS software (I have over 10 years GIS and Spatial Analysis experience), the census tracts in the Sinking Creek Valley alone, there are over 800 people, equaling over 16 percent of the county’s population, who most likely use this facility. Now considering the amount of people from the John’s Creek area (and areas beyond the divide where I do know that people come to use this site) that travel through the Sinking Creek Valley to work as well, that would put the percentage of the county that most likely uses the Simmonsville Trash Collection Site near 20 percent (everyone I know from both areas uses this facility). Also, given current real estate prices in these areas, I find it hard to believe that the western side of the county isn’t contributing enough taxes to have a trash collection site maintained for its use, given the recent upgrades to the site, it seems even more of a waste to shutter the site. I would ask the Board member that proposed this option if he/she would be willing to drive over 40 miles round trip every Saturday to dispose of a week’s worth of trash? This would be my situation (and many others I know), as I live less than a mile from the Simmonsville site, yet 20 miles from route 311 (so that 40 miles isn’t even considering the distance from 311 to the transfer station). And I say Saturday because I work at least 8-5 Monday through Friday in Blacksburg, so the hours of operation of the transfer station would not allow me to do so any other day. If this site were to be closed, perhaps the citizens that the board members seem to care little about should bill the county for the fuel costs and wear/tear on their vehicles, due to a basic service being revoked? Or perhaps the western quarter of the county should be annexed back to Giles County, as most services already come from there (e.g. phone/cable, section 8 assistance), and many people pay to send their kids there. I speak for many, many citizens when I say that we already feel neglected by New Castle. Now imagine if you ask 20 percent of the county to drive further to haul off trash than many, if not most, drive to their jobs. Also, how are possible property tax changes (not just the recent rate increase decisions) being considered with the recent appraisals that have been occurring from an outside firm, as I can’t imagine property values having dropped since the last assessment 5ish years ago? It seems the better approach would be to address the issues with the current site and keep it open, as opposed to shuttering it and then having to deal with the guaranteed repercussions.”
Monte and Jennifer Lentner wrote: “We understand that there is some discussion about closing the Rt. 42 convenience station and feel it is a TERRIBLE idea! First, a lot of people are not going to drive all the way to New Castle to dump their trash, it will end up on the side of the road. You know it and I know it! It will be more expensive trying to police it and clean it up after the fact. Second, those hours are very restrictive, someone who works out of the county has very little chance to get this done. Third, why is this ongoing? This was discussed last year and we have already fought this once. The county just got this nice facility done and in use and now you want to close it, COME ON! There are way too many people using this facility to even consider closing it. I have another idea, why don’t we close the one down near the town and have those people drive up here to use this one, it is brand new! It will only take about 1-2 hours to load up your trash and drive up here. But remember, you have to do it during the times that it is open! Sound inconvenient doesn’t it! Now that I have your attention, we are taxpayers in this county also. And we don’t want to have a service that we are paying for right now taken away.
Sue Bostic wrote: “I attended the Craig County Board of Supervisors meeting tonight. In order to make changes to the budget & attempt to balance the budget to fund what they think is most important, they want to cut $70,000. It appears that they are strongly considering the closure of the transfer trash station on Rt. 42. (beside the firehouse) If you do NOT wish to see our dumpsters removed contact the board. From what I gathered at the meeting, over $100,000 has been spent over the last couple years to upgrade the current site. Now they are wanting to cut the $60,000-70,000 it takes to maintain this site now. How smart was this to spend county monies to upgrade and improve this site and then decide to close it?! Also, the tax payers who use this site generate 50 percent of the tax base. But our area is less populated so the board views this as a low populated area to cut funding from. FEWER TAXER PAYERS generate 50 percent of the tax base! I suggest calling every board member and voice your opinion. If you do not use this site, we would appreciate your support in keeping it open for those who use it. You can obtain their numbers from the County Administrator’s Office. They are not open on Friday, but will be in on Monday. 864-5010. This requires immediate attention!”
Lisa Estes shared her thoughts: “First I want to say, I love living in Craig county with my husband where he grew up. It’s beautiful and not better place to raise our children. I’m not understanding the reasoning of redoing the site, making it easier to get in and out of but then wanting to close it. On behalf of elderly family members and neighbors, I think closing this dumpster site is not beneficial for them. route 42 is not the safest road to drive for them anyway with the deer and increase in traffic as time goes on. As a taxpayer of CC, I think the ones living on this end of the county need the access to a dumpster site without driving 25 minutes or more to bring our trash. We all pay our taxes just like the ones that live right in town. It’s ashamed they want to close this site, maybe rezoning this end of the county to Giles might be a better plan. Please, for the sake of our beautiful area of the county, keep our dumpster site at Simmonsville open for your residents. Thank you for your consideration on this matter.
Mary Huffman said she felt like people didn’t act like that area belonged to Craig County: “All we get out of paying taxes is our dumpsters. How many people do you think would go 25 miles to take trash? It will be thrown everywhere. They just fixed a new dumpster site last summer and put a fence around it and now after spending all that money, they want to close it down?”
William D. Orndorff, Karst Protection Coordinator, wrote: “Several of your constituents have brought to my attention the proposal before the Board to close the Route 42 convenience station (solid waste facility) as a cost saving measure for the County. Such a decision should not be taken lightly. I am writing to express my concern over the proposed action in terms of potential impact to natural resources. I am the Karst Protection Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. My mission is to help encourage and facilitate the conservation and protection of natural resources in Virginia’s limestone regions. As you know, the Sinking Creek and Meadow Creek valleys along US 42 south of Newcastle are underlain almost entirely by karst topography consisting of caves, sinkholes, disappearing streams and large springs. This landscape formed over the millennia as the limestone and dolostone rock of the valley slowly dissolved forming a dense network of caves beneath the flanks of the mountains and the valley floor. These caves serve as homes for globally rare animals, many known only from the Sinking Creek Valley, and support vital life functions of certain endangered species, including several bat species. Karst landscapes are highly susceptible to groundwater contamination, particularly from illegal dumping. In karst areas such dumping typically occurs in sinkholes on private properties, and is difficult to regulate. Illegal dumping rates are demonstrably higher in areas without convenient access to solid waste disposal facilities. Closure of the Route 42 Convenience Station will almost certainly result in an increase in illegal dumping, with most if not all of it taking place in sinkholes. Although our agency and others have worked diligently to educate citizens that such a practice in inappropriate and dangerous, my experience suggests many will revert to the practice of using sinkhole dumps if convenient alternatives are not available. The sinkholes are, as you know, direct connections to the groundwater system that supplies water to wells, springs, and ultimately the surface streams themselves. An increase in sinkhole dumping will degrade water quality in all three instances. One resource the Sinking and Meadow Creek valleys have in abundance is clean water, and it would be a tragedy to see that change, especially in response to a change in government policy. My recommendation is that you keep the Route 42 convenience station open to promote and facilitate responsible solid waste management by the citizens of Craig County.”
Murphy added comments of the Budget work session on April 20. “More than 80 written and more than 22 phone comments were submitted for the record from residents of multiple districts in Craig for consideration by the BOS,” she said.
Below are highlighted comments that stood out from citizens:
”That effectively managing this site is vital for increased tourism and attracting new residents to this County?”
“Closing this site does not change the volume of trash that must be hauled and it is still the county obligation to provide for and manage trash disposal county-wide”
“Closing this site and relying on only one facility on 615 near the old landfill will surely increase illegal dumping on private property, public property, along roadsides and down mountain embankments”
“It’s important to serve the county residents and business county-wide with an option for 24 hrs/day drop off their ever-growing household refuse”
“Many elderly and disabled tax payers appreciate this site and rely on its convenience to use it”
“Many residents support the consideration of additional part time hours to supplement our counties’ Solid Waste Official in better oversight and maintenance of trash management county-wide”
“Many residents support the pursuit of adding a compactor to the 42 site and cameras for added safety and monitoring to possible reduce the mentioned ‘current hauling cost of $70K to possibly 20Kfollowing these improvements”
Murphy presented important financial statistics for consideration: For 2016- Amount and percentage of Real Estate taxes paid as revenue for county budget: New Castle District-$259,211 (9 percent), Craigs Creek-$575,813 (21 percent), Simmonsville District-$710,477 (26 percent), Potts Mountain District $775,042 (28 percent), Craig City District-$355,275 (13 percent) and Town of New Castle-77,937 (3 percent).
“Please note that given these numbers, 54 percent of the Real Estate taxes paid come from residents of the Simmonsville& Potts Mountain Districts,” Murphy concluded. She added that many more comments needed to be solicited from both sides to weigh the pros and cons for the entire community. “We want to answer rightfully proposed questions by our residents in the process of working towards a balanced budget – and one that prudently funds the most vital services for all of our county residents.”
Goodman chose to defer responding for the Board members as he wanted to receive other persons thoughts and decision making factors first. He encourages all citizens to be at the Board meeting Thursday, May 4 to further discuss this important community decision.