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DeSoto County finds money in the trash

HERNANDO — DeSoto County has pulled some good numbers from the trash.

Officials have reported 86.1 tons of rubbish collected from last week’s annual cleanup — a six-ton increase over the previous year — and a $190,000 refund to the county from disposal vendor Allied Waste Industries to correct a six-year billing error.

“It shows the people care about their shared landscape; they don’t want junk piled up indoors and especially outdoors,” said Ray Laughter, county Environmental Services manager, of the final cleanup figures.

The rubbish, collected at 16 bins at 14 locations across the county, was taken north to the South Shelby Landfill. Last year’s spring spruce-up tallied about 80 tons of rubbish, a 20-ton increase over the 60.24 tons of 2011, and Laughter said he was gratified the upward trend continued in 2013.

Laughter and county administrator Vanessa Lynchard said the $190,000 refund reflected an error that was plugged by Arizona-based Allied into the formula, tied to the Consumer Price Index, for costs to the county for disposal of trash from the cities and the county and its facilities.

“When we switched vendors two years ago from Allied to Waste Connections for garbage hauling — because we could save money by doing so — the Board of Supervisors’ Solid Waste Committee thought it was a good time to examine all accounts, and our audit revealed this error early last year,” said Lynchard.

“It was a glitch and we started negotiating with Allied right away,” said Supervisor Jessie Medlin of Olive Branch, a committee member with fellow Supervisor Bill Russell of Walls. The result was “a plus for the county.”

Lynchard said Allied “quickly acknowledged the mistake and partnered with the county to determine the amount due.” The time of the error ran from 2005 to 2011, and did not involve customer billing.

While Waste Connections handles solid-waste collection of customers in the unincorporated county and Walls, Allied still is the waste disposal vendor to the county and cities.

Meanwhile, Laughter and Lynchard gave several other environmental updates:

Collection rates for household waste have decreased this year to $8.45 a month from $8.48: “It’s not much, but it’s headed in the right direction — down,” said Laughter.

Added Lynchard: “Anytime you can keep service costs stable, you’re doing good. For this cost to go down, that’s excellent for the county and the customers.”

Also headed down is the commercial rate at the county rubbish pit to $5.19 per cubic yard of waste from $5.25. “Again, it seems small, but on a commercial account the savings can add up,” said Laughter.

A second electronic waste recycling trailer will be added at the county pit, “which is now our busiest location for collecting electronic waste such as old televisions and computers,’ said Laughter. “Eventually the county will have to partner with the cities for a ‘one-stop shop’ recycling facility.”

He said he’d like to see DeSoto emulate Shelby County, Tenn., which developed such a site through a grant.

DeSoto is linking with Olive Branch on a tire-recycling operation at the city’s maintenance shop. Meanwhile, Carey Redding, environmental specialist on Laughter’s staff, is working with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality on the necessary approvals.

“There’s a six-month timeline,” said Laughter, “so we hope to see tire recycling there by November or December.”

Textbook recycling with DeSoto County Schools has begun.

“These are books several years old that can’t be used or sold, but can be recycled to spare the landfill and costs to the taxpayer,” said Laughter.

He said more than 40 tons of old books were hauled to Tree Saver Recycling in Independence, Miss., “and we have seven to 10 more tons we’ll be hauling in the next day or so.” He said about $100 a ton is being realized.

Metal recycling initiated by Laughter two years ago continues to show results at the county pit. It generates about $2,000 a month for the county, he said.

Internal recycling of paper and cardboard began in April in special blue receptacles at offices in the County Administration Building and the County Courthouse in Hernando.

“Our tax offices and the courts generate a lot of paper. It’s part of a long-term plan where we’ll add other buildings as funds allow,” said Laughter.

Lynchard said she and the supervisors credit Laughter for helping raise DeSoto’s earth-friendly profile since he was named environmental chief two years ago.

“We’ve been able to do tremendous things under Ray’s leadership,” Lynchard said.



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