There is much that conspires against Robeson County, standing between us and economic prosperity, but we are rich by at least one measure — land.
Robeson County, with 949 square miles of land, is the largest county in North Carolina, although Sampson County likes to falsely make that boast. Memo to Sampson County: 949 > 947.
Because of our size, Robeson County has plenty of room to dump the trash. The landfill in St. Pauls still has a life expectancy of about 80 more years.
County officials would like to see more trash going into the landfill, specifically about 14,000 tons that is being hauled out of the county by private contractors to be dumped elsewhere more cheaply. Because Robeson charges a tipping fee of $36.50 a ton, the county calculates it is losing about $500,000 a year in revenue.
As a result, the county Board of Commissioners has asked local municipalities to pass ordinances making it against the law for private contractors to carry our trash out of county to be dumped elsewhere. Red Springs became the most recent municipality to do so, adopting the ordinance on Tuesday. Lumberton is expected to do so soon.
But the county Board of Commissioners has its eyes on a bigger prize. On Friday, the commissioners will hold a special meeting to try to hammer out a proposal for New Hanover County that would have that county pay this county to accept its trash. New Hanover produces about 200,000 tons of trash a year, but it’s unclear how much of that would come our way if a deal were struck. County officials say such a deal could mean $2 million to $3 million a year for Robeson.
We are told that New Hanover has narrowed its list of candidates to two, Robeson County and —
no surprise here — Sampson County.
We know some people will bristle at the idea of taking another county’s trash, but it simply makes good economic sense to do so. During the past decade North Carolina has incrementally adopted laws regulating what can be disposed of at landfills, so any worry about hazardous materials being moved from New Hanover to St. Pauls are needless.
It’s potentially a nice windfall for Robeson County, and while we doubt it would be substantial enough for a property tax cut, it might prevent an increase in the fees county residents pay to operate the landfill. In this instance, one county’s trash could truly be another’s treasure.