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Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor

The buzz last week was why the mayor removed the trash dumpsters at the recreation center.  I have gotten feedback about the decision. 

I did not make a unitary decision to remove the dumpsters.  It was a decision made by both me and the town manager after visiting the site  and discussing the situation with Public Works Director Lamar Nix and Lester Norris, Director of Recreation. The town board was also notified.

After seeing the huge amount of garbage that had accumulated at the site, and how garbage was even carelessly thrown into recycling bins, the decision was made. The recreation center was becoming a trash dumping ground replete with odors and liquid runoff.  

Last fall a recycling trailer was placed at the recreation center as a convenience for local residents.  A sign posted above the trailer states that household garbage should be taken to the Buck Creek for Rich Gap sites. As a courtesy to folks who would recycle, I supported putting a dumpster next to the recycling trailer with the idea that residents might drop off a bag or two of household garbage.  It was a trial, wait and see effort.  

Over the months sanitation crews saw a growing demand to where additional dumpsters and pickups were added. The situation became so critical that three dumpsters would be filled and overflow daily. Crews had to transport these large loads and incur tipping fees at the Rich Gap transfer station.  In other words, the Town of Highlands was providing a de facto trash service for people not living and paying taxes within the town limits.

I have observed people using the dumpsters on several occasions.  Folks would pull up with SUVs, station wagons and trucks packed with garbage bags and cardboard.  As I witnessed bag after bag being thrown into the dumpsters, I came to realize that many folks were using these dumpsters as their sole means of disposing garbage.  

This site has always been monitored by cameras, rather than having an attendant on location. Recent camera footage has been matched to vehicles and local addresses. Many are county addresses, so my suspicion that the town has been providing trash services for county residents has been confirmed. We have a cooperative agreement with the Macon County Solid Waste Department in operating and supporting the recycling trailer for everyone, whether they live in the town or county, but no agreement exists with regard to household garbage.

People tell me the town can’t just remove the dumpsters, and say it’s not our problem. I agree with that contention. On the other hand, disposal of trash is everyone’s problem, and it will take both the town and county to find a solution. The town board will discuss the issue at the July meeting tonight. [Thursday].

A challenge is to find a centrally located property to build and operate a recycling and convenience center.  Our experience at the recreation center makes it clear a center will have  to be staffed.  How we build this center without folks saying, “not near me,” is another challenge.v

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