A planned increase in tipping fees at the Baldwin County Landfill was a topic of controversy during the Jan. 22 Baldwin County Commission work session, as debris removal companies, construction companies and homebuilders came to the let the commission know they were opposed to the move.
Baldwin County Solid Waste Director Terri Graham presented the commission with a proposal to either abolish the cubic yard rate for construction and demolition debris or raise it to $4.50 from its current discounted rate of $2.75.
The discounted cubic yard rate of $2.75 per cubic yard was created in 2011 due to economic hardships for the construction industry at that time. The lower rate had been extended on limited terms for several years until Sept. 2013, when the commission decided to make it the rate until it decided to do something different.
“Business was bad back then,” Graham said. “That decrease in the rate has served its purpose. I don’t think the building industry in Baldwin County is hurting right now.”
Graham said the landfill would still continue to offer a decrease in its tonnage rates, from $20 to $18, which would be open to the construction and demolition debris customers as well.
County staff said the rate change to $4.50 better reflected the costs associated with taking on the material and said raising that rate would help the county with issues with FEMA reimbursements.
Graham added that the current $2.75 rate is lower than any other rate within the area, and added she recognized that the proposed $4.50 was a large increase.
“The reason I said abolish the cubic yard rate altogether is $4.50 probably is too much to pay,” Graham. “It’s cheaper for our customers to pay $18 per ton. Right now, when they come into the landfill, they’re still having to weigh. We know what they would have paid us by the ton, and that’s why I said no yardage rate unless there is a storm event.”
But the customers there said a change like that could both hurt their businesses and possibly lead to them taking their business elsewhere, likely Mobile.
“The key to this is that we can’t go to a per ton rate because I can’t quote my customers on that,” Mike McRaney of Big Red Container Inc. in Daphne said. “My customers can’t budget based on an unknown. It would be an accounting nightmare for all of us. It’s hard to justify this large of an increase overall for us to be able to function. We’re local Baldwin County companies trying to survive and making a living. If I have to try to make a living based on what y’all change, of course I’ll go to Mobile. I don’t want to be forced to do that, but if we have to do that again, I would.”
Brian Armstrong with the Baldwin County Homebuilders Association agreed with McRaney.
“We’re not for increasing these guys’ prices,” Armstrong said. “If we raise taxes on these guys and on the community, it’s going to be harder for us to estimate houses for people.”
For their part, the county commissioners said they would like to take more time to gather information about this possible change.
“Those of you making your living doing this, we need to show you the information about how we’re making these decisions before we move forward on this,” Commissioner Joe Davis said.
Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood agreed.
“Something is not right with this whole thing,” Underwood said. “Until I get that concrete information in front of me, we should wait on this.”
The commissioners tabled the proposal pending further study.