Commissioners approve J&B increase

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Macon County Courthouse photo by Vickie Carpenter

Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

Over the last several years, although operational costs have increased, Bonita Hamstra owner of J&B Disposal says that her service rates have remained the same. 

Hamster has only received one previous rate increase from the county for service in 25 years. 

J&B Disposal operates with a franchise agreement with Macon County and the Town of Franklin. The franchise agreement essential prevents any other company from providing the same services in Macon County — which means to increase rates, she has to secure approval from the governing boards. 

“My husband would not take the business without a franchise,” Hamstra said. “The area was small, and it needed a lot of income put into the business to bring it to where it is now and to provide personal roll off cans. We put compactors in the hospitals. We tried to bring the community up to speed. There was no service being provided by the county.”

Hamstra’s request was for increases across the board. The rate at local convenience centers will go from $75 to $90 per pull, centers in Buck Creek, Junaluska, Nantahala and Scaly will go from $75 to $100 per pull, and transfer trailers will go from $175 to $225.

For residential services, rates will increase 10 percent for quarterly billing and 10 percent in Highlands on an annual basis, or semiannual per billing.

Macon County Commissioner Paul Higdon spoke in support of the increase request and noted that with the current gas prices, he doesn’t understand how the business is able to operate as efficiently as they do. 

“When you get there with the truck, you offload it with the empty container, you load the full container, pull it out, offload it, pick up the empty container, put it in the slot, load the full container, so you’re having to do that four times?” Higdon said. “You’re doing that for $75 per container? Even in the far regions of Nantahala? You might make a little bit of money on the Highlands side because it’s close to the office, but when you go to Nantahala and Buck Creek for $75 and you have to load that can four, five, six times. I’m just trying to educate people about the process. I just want people to know that you’re not ripping us off.”

Commissioner Ronnie Beale, who operates a construction business, said he was one of the company’s first customers and is one of their most active customers to date.

“For 20 years, Bonita has run this business and I sit amazed,” Beale said. “It is amazing what they can do, with the money they make and the services they provide. To my knowledge, I’ve never seen a complaint. I believe this is what is best for the citizens of this county.”

In addition to the rate increase, Hamstra requested an extension on the franchise agreement with Macon County, which she says is needed to be able to secure business loans from the banks. 

Both the rate increase and the franchise expansion agreement were approved unanimously. 

Macon County Commissioners discuss 

Pre-K needs at Highlands

After receiving an initial request from stakeholders in Highlands for funding to expand Highlands School to provide Pre-K classrooms, Commissioner Jim Tate helped move the project forward during the May meeting of the board of commissioners by securing a unanimous vote to solicit bids for architectural services for the project. 

Once bids for architectural services are secured, the county will decide, likely as part of the annual budget, a timeline or even the feasibility of the project to move forward. 

The lack of available early learning spots in Macon County is why the Advancing Highlands Education Committee (AHEC) made the initial request for more than $8 million for renovations at Highlands School. The renovations would include space for two pre-school classrooms, which according to the AHEC committee, would be filled immediately. 

According to the planning study conducted by AHEC earlier this year, space needs at Highlands School involve two pre-K classrooms at 1,200 square feet each, for 36 students and a playground that is 2,700 square feet. For project based learning and career technical education, the planning study found that labs/maker’s spaces needed to be added to the elementary, middle and high schools at 1,200 to 2,000 square feet each, more square feet in the media center and in independent learning areas.

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