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QC gives itself bonus; votes to instill trash collection fees

By Staff, 12/11/19 9:54 AM

PRESCOTT – Personal greed reared its ugly head at the December meeting of the Nevada County Quorum Court Tuesday as the court voted, 5-4, to give itself a $650 bonus for the year.

This occurred after the court approved a budget for 2020. Once the budget was approved, Justice of the Peace Willie Wilson moved the court get the same bonus as full-time employees. It took about a minute before anyone seconded the motion, at which time JP Pat Grimes said the court didn’t deserve a bonus because the members don’t work for the county every day like the county’s employees.

This was the extent of the discussion, other than Herbert Coleman, in an aside to Wilson, saying this was the same amount the court got last year. When it came down to a vote, Coleman, Wilson, Bob Cummins, Curtis Lee Johnson and Dennis Pruitt all voted in favor of the bonus, while Grimes, Kenneth Bailey, Chris Fore and Brenda Stockton voted against it.

Once that was settled, Nevada County Judge Mark Glass brought up the need for the county to begin charging for trash pickup. He told the court the Upper Southwest Regional Solid Waste Management Authority, the landfill in Nashville where the county sends its Class 1, or household garbage, will be raising its fees by $50 per trip starting in January and another $50 in 2021, literally doubling its fees over the next two years.

The Nevada County Solid Waste Department, he continued, has been struggling financially, and unless the county beings charging for garbage pickup, won’t be able to survive. He pointed out the City of Prescott charges $10.50 for trash pickup and proposed the county charge $10 per month, to be paid annually with property taxes. This, he said, will provide the department with around $120,000 a year. There are some exemptions to the pickup fee – churches, commercial businesses and deer camps.

The owners of rental property in the county will be responsible for the garbage fees, and will be allowed to collect the fees from those renting their houses.

Glass said if this isn’t done, the Solid Waste Department won’t survive another year.

Grimes said the county needs to find a way to make people pay their property taxes, because if everyone paid their taxes this fee wouldn’t be needed.

“We can’t make people pay their bills,” Glass said. “A lot of people pay their taxes when they get their tags. Other (properties) get auctioned off and the buyers have to pay the back taxes.” He pointed out the department has less than $20,000 in it at this time.

Nevada County Treasurer Susie Key added two payrolls have to come out of the funds in the department as well.

Fore said this will make a lot of people mad.

Glass’s response was this is the only way the county can afford to continue picking up garbage. The money from the fee, he added, will be placed in the Solid Waste account. “I don’t want to do this either,” he said.

Glass was asked if he could guarantee these fees would only be used for solid waste needs. He was unable to make the guarantee, but said he hope it wouldn’t, adding any money left over in the department’s budget from the fee would be carried over to the next year.

There was discussion about reducing the amount to $75, or giving discounts for those who paid in full during the first of the year. In the end, the court voted 4-4 to pass a garbage fee of $10 per month. The vote was tied as Stockton had left before the discussion. This left the final vote to Glass, who voted in favor of the fee.

The court discussed installing such a fee during the early part of the summer, but opted to wait until after the Prescott School District’s millage vote, so as not to interfere with it.

In other business, Jamie Hillery, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce told the court there will be two ribbon cuttings next week – one for Wolf Pack Nutrition on Dec. 17 at 9:30 a.m. and the other for Yates Maintenance on Thursday, Dec. 19, also at 9:30 a.m. She reminded the panel Breakfast with Santa will be at the fairgrounds Saturday from 9-11 a.m. and the admission is a canned food item for the Food Share.

Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, informed the panel the Bodcaw City Council has asked for an extension to its water system and voted to apply for a $500,000 grant. This, she said, will be an 18-month process and affect 25-30 families. She added, this is a 100 percent grant with no match.

In some instances, Godwin said, because the program is for low-to-moderate income families, some will be able to have the lines ran to their homes at no charge. The new water lines will be put in the county’s right-of-way to avoid the need of getting private easements.

The court approved a budget for 2020, with county general’s budget being $1,809,920.97; the Road and Bridge budget, $1,151,893.29; Solid Waste, $556,394; and the jail’s quarter-cent sales tax $777,384.90. This is 90 percent of the actual amounts, but state law requires counties to have a 10 percent contingency fund for emergencies.

“It will be tight,” Glass said. “We’re encouraging all department heads not to spend any more than they have to.” He added, the prediction for the 2020 census is the county’s population will drop into the 7,000 range, which means the county will take a hit financially.

The court approved a $1 per hour raise for jailers and dispatchers. Nevada County Sheriff Danny Martin had asked for a $2 an hour raise to try and keep employees from going elsewhere for more money, but this amount wasn’t possible. The budget committee will address this issue quarterly in the coming year.