City manager decides against requesting landfill, waste collection fee increases

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 7, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — After proposing fee increases for landfill and waste collection during the city’s first budget workshop, City Manager Lane Bailey returned Tuesday night to tell council those increases were no longer needed.

He offered an option to keep the recycling fee at the same amount with current vendor Waste Management, but recycling pickup would be once a month instead of biweekly. At the April 21 council meeting, members agreed to go with Republic Services, which would provide the same services with a price increase.

The council ultimately decided to stay with the previously approved contract that was not yet executed.

Bailey said discussion with Public Works Director Craig Powers resulted in some cost saving measures and the ability to forgo the previously proposed 48-cent landfill and 88-cent waste collection fee increases.

Before the final decision, Councilman David Post asked if the city could continue on a one-year contract with Waste Management instead of three years to see the impact of COVID-19. That was not possible.

Post said he thought the vendor was not flexible and, with a decrease in recycling pickup, the contract should be a lower price. Although he didn’t previously vote in favor of awarding the Republic Services contract due to wanting more time, he was for keeping the new vendor on Tuesday night.

Mayor Karen Alexander said if the city council wasn’t in favor of any fee increases, the tax rate would have to go up.

“While none of want to hear increase, if we don’t increase in one way, we’re going to have to deal with it in another way,” Alexander said.

Bailey has proposed no property tax increase for the next fiscal year and council agreed previously.

Councilman Brian Miller said he doesn’t think the increase required for Republic Services — 94 cents per month — is a significant cost. The 94-cent increase was separate from Bailey’s proposal.

Alexander said citizens want to keep recycling because it is a part of the city’s brand, especially being home to Catawba College’s Center for the Environment.

Post said he would like to see some educational materials about what can be recycled provided to citizens.

Other business:

• The council approved a trial of a temporary street closure for the Salisbury Farmers Market. The 200 block of Kerr Street from North Lee Street to Depot Street will be closed every Saturday at 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The trial will begin Saturday and continue to June 13. The council will reevaluate the closure at its June 2 council meeting and consider extending the closure through the market’s season.

The request was made by the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority and Salisbury Farmers Market.

Public Works will provide barricades for the month trial, but if extended, the authority will purchase barricades.

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins asked if there would be a COVID-19 plan in place to ensure shoppers are wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and using hand sanitizer.

Bailey said he understood her concern, but the request was about the street closure.

“I think it’s certainly a valid question, because I think that we all have to be responsible for trying to lead around our public health in every way that we can,” she responded.

City Attorney Graham Corriher said farmers markets are considered essential business, but all businesses, essential and non-essential, are required to be in compliance with the governor’s order.

Miller agreed with Bailey that the request is strictly about the street closure.

“If someone doesn’t feel like it’s appropriate for them to be there, they don’t have to go,” Miller said. “But if somebody is looking forward to an opportunity of going out and picking up some fresh vegetables at the farmers market, they will have that opportunity whether we block the street or not. Frankly, blocking the street is safer for those folks who do show up, so I think we’re getting outside of our area.”

James Meacham, executive director of the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority, said they have arranged booths to be further apart and to encourage vendors to bring hand sanitizer and wear face masks.

“Social distancing and cleanliness is a priority,” Meacham said.

The street closure will give the market a better opportunity to distance vendors, Meacham added.

• The council approved five city-initiated demolitions for dilapidated structures. Four were primary structures — 39 Knox St., 1003 Grady St., 1027 S. Church St. and 1511 W. Horah St. — that were in a vacant, abandoned and dilapidated state. Code Services Manager Michael Cotilla said they were all suffering from different stages of dilapidation resulting in repairs costing more than 50% of the property’s accessed value.

One was an accessory structure at 519 Vance Ave .

Cotilla said all properties were notified by mail and only one responded, 1003 Grady St. owner Candace Chamber, who welcomed the demolition.

The shed at 1027 S. Church St. will also be removed.

Neighbors of the soon-to-be demolished properties have been alerted.

Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield said 519 Vance Ave. was the first house she lived in Salisbury and property was in bad shape then.