Members of the Scotland County Board of Commissioners paid a visit to the business end of the county’s solid waste operation on Wednesday, taking a tour of the Patterson Road landfill.
After several years of running in the red, including a loss of $129,000 during the 2011-12 fiscal year, the landfill and the county’s solid waste services are coming under scrutiny ahead of next year’s budget planning sessions.
Guided by landfill manager Bryant Higgins, commissioners Guy McCook, Carol McCall, Bob Davis and Whit Gibson were updated on the landfill’s day-to-day operations as well as its anticipated capital needs.
The group also included County Clerk Ann Kurtzman, County Manager Kevin Patterson and Finance Officer Charles Nichols.
“I think the landfill is being managed well. Everything appears to be in good condition and kept very orderly, clean and neat,” said McCook, chairman of the board.
McCook also praised Higgins' work, saying that he “appears to be doing a great job, along with his staff.”
The tour included a visit to the entry station building, manned solely by county employee Kathy Duke throughout the day.
“This is my domain,” Duke told the commissioners. “(Vehicles with waste) drive up, and I tell them what to do and where to go.”
On a daily basis between 50 and 75 vehicles enter the landfill with Duke’s approval.
Duke also manages record keeping for the landfill as well as billing.
According to Higgins, the landfill keeps close watch over every dollar it spends.
“On these two computers there we keep everything down from the diesel fuel we burn to the parts we buy for each piece of equipment … (Duke) can tell me what the cost was and help us manage expense.
“She also does all the billing. I’m more of an outside guy,” said Higgins, who worked in construction before joining the landfill in 2000.
As a cost-saving measure, Higgins’ staff changes the oil in the sheriff’s office vehicles in addition to maintaining the landfill’s own vehicles.
“And we buy our oil in bulk,” Higgins said.
Despite the thriftiness of Higgins and the landfill staff, McCook said that something must be done to make the county’s solid waste services solvent.
“The biggest issue is still going to be generating enough revenue to pay for expense. We need to look at our options with regard to the future of the landfill and figure out how to get it to at least be a break even proposition for the community,” McCook said.
The equation that leads to improving the landfill’s viability will have to include some future capital needs, as well.
Higgins told the commissioners on Wednesday that there are several equipment needs that will need to be met in the coming years.
“That includes upgrading the floor on the transfer station, which is going to have to be done,” McCook said. “There are two or three different ways to do it: Do we want to patch it and continue to try to use it or completely redo it?”
Early estimates for the transfer station floor repair job have ranged from $50,000 to as much as $250,000, according to McCook.
Whatever the future of the landfill, McCook said that visits like the one on Wednesday morning will continue to be part of the board’s problem solving process under his leadership.
“It gives us all a better understanding of what the services are that we provide to the community and it also gives us a chance to interact with the employees that are directly touching the public. It helps us see that when we have to do things like furlough employees, that we are touching individual people.”