By Benjamin Bullard
The Cullman Times
The city council tweaked the process of obtaining a business license Thursday, streamlining part of a long-standing curbside debris pickup service that officials said has cost the city more money than it’s able to recoup.
The move, passed at the new council’s first regular meeting since taking office last week, is intended to relieve the city of the mounting expense associated with hauling large quantities of curbside residential construction and demolition debris to the Cullman County landfill.
Beginning now, applicants for building permits in Hanceville will have to agree up front to arrange for the removal of heavy debris associated with their building projects. They also won’t receive a permit until they’ve informed the city how they plan to get the trash hauled away.
The change is intended to cut out the use of the city’s long-running landfill pickup service for major removal operations, but the service itself isn’t going away. Rather, said clerk Tania Wilcox, it will simply be used as it was originally intended — for removal of single household items.
“People can still use it, but not if it’s for construction debris — they’ve got to do away with that sort of debris themselves,” she explained. “If it’s a couch or a chair; something like that, the city will still do the landfill ticket service. It’s just not going to be available for big projects, where we incur a lot of cost to haul tons of material to the landfill.”
As always, Hanceville residents who want to get rid of something big in their homes can simply purchase a landfill ticket from city hall, put it on the item to be removed from the curb, and wait for street workers to come along and collect it. The waste is taken to the Cullman County landfill, which assesses a fee based on weight.
Council members said Thursday that, while the flat $10 fee for the landfill ticket is appropriate for single items, it simply doesn’t come close to covering the cost of hauling away tons and tons of rubbish.
“I believe we need to look at our building permits; that, somewhere in there, you must sign that you’ll be responsible for your excess material — or you pay the city to haul it away,” said council member Doug Batemon. “And if you don’t do that in a specified period of time, the city has the right to haul it away, and charge you for it.”
Batemon’s idea was unanimously approved, but council member Charles Wilson emphasized that the intent of the measure isn’t to enrich the city through opportune enforcement. Instead, he said, it’s a way to save money on landfill costs while putting city equipment through less wear and tear.
“We’re not in the contracting business,” he said. “It is their [the permit holder’s] responsibility, and when they get a building permit, they are buying that responsibility. We’re not supposed to be in competition with these garbage haulers out here. If we do have to clean up, we can do it under our cleanup ordinance, and there’s a citation procedure for that.”
Wilcox said the city has been trying for years to figure out a way to stay in the black on the landfill ticket service. Last year, Hanceville’s public works department took in approximately $2,000 in fees and salvage metal sales through the program, but incurred around $7,000 in landfill fees.
“I agree that we need to offer our citizens a reasonable service, but we also can’t take a $5,000 loss every year,” said public works superintendent Rusty Fields. “It takes manpower, and then there’s the wear and tear on our trucks. These are $130,000 trucks, so it costs us money. What the council is doing with the permits will be a good starting point.”
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.