Cabarrus receives budget plan
By Hugh Fisher
CONCORD – Cabarrus County Commissioners received the county staff’s 2011-12 budget proposal at Monday’s regular meeting of the board.
It was a meeting that grew contentious as members of the board debated the future of the county’s construction and demolition landfill.
Space is currently limited at the landfill, located on Irish Potato Road.
And revenues are down because of the recession, county Sustainability Director Kevin Grant said.
Moreover, Grant said the increased cost of complying with government regulations and monitoring will cost the county between $1.8 to $2.6 million, even if the landfill were closed.
The government requires monitoring for pollutants to continue at the site for 30 years after closure.
At the May 2 agenda work session, commissioners debated a potential plan to partner with Greenway Waste Solutions, LLC, to expand the landfill and put a composting facility into place there.
The company had approached the county with the idea, Grant said.
Greenway Waste Solutions, LLC is one of the Griffin Brothers family of companies.
The commissioners were given a draft memorandum of understanding laying out the terms of the agreement that would be used to explore options.
If the N.C. Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources were to approve a request to expand the landfill, Greenway and the county would draft an operating agreement.
The county would remain the permit holder for the landfill.
Greenway would be responsible for any post-closure costs at the landfill, such as closure costs, groundwater monitoring and other continuing monitoring costs.
The county would continue to be responsible for ongoing operating expenses.
Commissioner Bob Carruth agreed with Commissioner Larry Burrage that language making Greenway responsible for its share of the costs had to be a part of any contract.
Then, Commissioner Chris Measmer expressed a host of concerns.
He said he’d heard from residents who live close to a Greenway-operated facility near Mulberry Road.
Measmer claimed those residents had found cars coated with gypsum dust and “purple water” runoff from that facility.
County Manager John Day emphasized that the memorandum of understanding is an agreement that the MOU is the reason for this … to explore how best to continue.
“It’s important that you remember that the decision you’re making tonight is not a final decision,” Day said.
Carruth said that the increased costs of regulation, starting next year, could require a property tax rate increase of up to one cent.
Carruth said this could be “an opportunity to save the county a lot of money.”
Commissioner Liz Poole agreed, saying the agreement “just gives (county staff) the authority to explore the options and continue to negotiate with the firm, to make sure that everything gets done correctly out there.”
She moved to approve the memorandum. Carruth seconded.
Measmer continued to list his objections, asserting that the company had been found to be out of compliance with regulations.
Measmer related the story of how another customer had stopped doing business with Griffin Brothers due to allegedly being overcharged for services.
And Measmer questioned Day’s statements and why this proposal was not being opened up to a bid process.
“Sometimes I wonder if you believe you’re the sixth commissioner,” Measmer said to Day.
Chairman Jay White intervened, saying Measmer was out of line.
After comments on the current landfill facility, White noted that Measmer lives close to the Greenway facility he’d been speaking about.
“My question is, why didn’t you bring up the fact that you live over there and what your own personal opinion is?” White said.
Measmer replied that those weren’t his personal concerns.
In reply, White called for openness and transparency.
“We need to be up front with everybody as to what our involvements are so that the five of us know where we are coming from on a certain issue,” White said.
Ronald Gilkerson of Griffin Brothers came to the podium and was recognized.
“How many times have you been cited for noncompliance since you’ve been out there?” Burrage asked.
“Zero,” Gilkerson said.
He said there was no possible source of “purple water” and that gypsum dust is conveyed into an enclosed building after grinding.
“Where Mr. Measmer is coming up with some of these things, I don’t know,” Gilkerson said.
Measmer did not question Gilkerson directly.
“I know what I was told, and I know exactly what is going on,” Measmer said.
The vote was 3-to-2 to approve the memorandum of understanding. Burrage and Measmer voted against the measure.
After the meeting, Measmer and Day spoke quietly for several minutes.
Speaking alone to a reporter, Measmer said he stood by the comments he made during the meeting.
“I feel it’s a mistake for the county to go into business with the Griffin Brothers,” he said.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the board received the county staff’s proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The budget maintains a property tax rate of 63 cents per $100 of value.
It also freezes spending at 2012 levels for the remainder of the five-year budget plan.
“We look forward to working with the board to go through this very long document,” Day said.
Three budget workshop meetings are set for the next two weeks, giving local agencies a chance to make their case for funding.
The first session will be held Tuesday, May 24, followed by meetings on Tuesday, May 31 and Wednesday, June 1.
Carruth encouraged members of the public to attend those sessions and to learn about the process of making the county’s budget.
“This is the most important thing we do as a board,” Carruth said. “I beg the citizens to ask questions.”
But, he said, it was important to remember that the county has many services it must provide due to state and federal mandates.
“We are not Washington and we are not Raleigh,” Carruth said.
The proposed budget can be viewed in its entirety at www.cabarruscounty.us/Finance/preliminarybudget2012.html.
In other action
In other business before the Cabarrus County Commissioners:
• Commissioners voted unanimously to accept Woodson University’s high bid of $10,000 for the former Bethel School property in Midland.
• The board unanimously approved a contract between the county and the Cabarrus Literacy Council for the Cabarrus County Public Library to operate the Council’s adult basic literacy program.
• Commissioners went into closed session to discuss the location or expansion of industries.
County Manager John Day said no action was expected following the closed session.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.