LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners approved a plan expand the Robeson County landfill by 75 acres on Tuesday, doing so in the face of opposition from people who live near the facility.
The unanimous voice vote, with Commissioner Jerry Stephens absent, was taken after a public hearing on the proposed vertical and lateral expansion within the landfill’s existing boundaries. As it was in the previous two hearings about the expansion, one during the board’s Nov. 6 meeting and a public forum in St. Pauls on Nov. 27, landfill neighbors expressed their concerns before the vote was taken.
Larry Lowery, who owns property about 150 feet from the landfill’s boundary, spoke about how the trash dump was lowering the value of his property.
“Everyone’s land out there is just as valuable as anyone else’s,” Lowery said.
His “pet peeve” is how he is paying taxes as high as someone with a million-dollar home in another part of the county, Lowery said.
“My question is, why aren’t my taxes coming down?” he said. “No one will tell me that.”
The landfill should have been closed two years ago, he said.
Landfill Director County Gene Walters said the landfill has 59 years of life left.
“You haven’t heard the last of me,” Lowery said as he walked away from the podium.
Lowery’s wife, Sue, said she was troubled by the intake of trash from other counties.
“I’d like to know why we have to put up with the fuss and bother of other people out of the county dumping trash at the landfill,” she said.
Taking in that trash adds to the noise and smell coming from the landfill, she said.
“I can’t even go outside to enjoy the day,” she said.
In response to a question from Sue Lowery, Walters told her the landfill does not take in trash from other municipalities but does take trash coming from other counties.
Both Lowerys said that in the past they have been told nothing about changes to the landfill’s operations until after the changes have been made. Larry Lowery gave the example of when the landfill operators opened a new borrow pit, from which dirt is dug and used to cover the trash.
“No one told us what was going to happen,” he said. “They just dug and dug and dug.”
Lowery also told the commissioners he wasn’t told beforehand when the county bought land near his home for the landfill.
“I got a certified letter after everything was done,” he said.
County Attorney Patrick Pait tried to ease the Lowerys’ concerns by telling them the expansion will take place on existing landfill property. No extra land is needed.
“This is a natural process to expand in our existing footprint,” said board Chairman Raymond Cummings.
The state government mandates that a public hearing be held so residents can be informed whenever changes in operations are made at the landfill, he said.
After the meeting ended, Larry Lowery said County Manager Ricky Harris had agreed to meet with him to discuss any detrimental effect the landfill may be having on his property.
Harris confirmed he plans to meet with Larry Lowery. If it is determined that the landfill has depressed the value of Lowery’s property, the value can be adjusted on the county’s tax role, as happens with any revaluation process.
In other business, the commissioners approved spending $34,000 for supplemental body armor for deputies so the lawmen can have added protection during an active shooter situation.
The money will be enough to buy each sheriff’s deputy a vest that can be put on over their standard-issued body armor. The supplemental armor is the same as that worn by N.C. Highway Patrol troopers.
The purchase was prompted by a violent standoff on Oct. 1 in Parkton during which a trooper was shot.
Kevin Anthony Battaglia, 33, was shot to death by law enforcement officers after an hours-long standoff with them at his home on Acadiana Drive. It started when Battaglia fired at law enforcement officers and escalated when he struck a Highway Patrol trooper. The trooper’s bullet-resistant vest protected him from serious injury.
In a related budget action, the commissioners approved appropriating $66,573 so two Sheriff’s Office vehicles damaged during the same Oct. 1 incident can be repaired.
“We were very blessed of the outcome of this situation for all law enforcement involved,” Sheriff Ken Sealey wrote in his letter requesting the money. “As a result we lost two vehicles and we are in desperate need to get these replaced and back on the road.”
In other business, the commissioners approved:
— An amendment to a conditional-use permit that will allow Davey Locklear to operate an auto maintenance, vehicle inspection station, mechanic shop and barber shop to include a used-car dealership on a 1.9-acre tract of land in a Residential-Agricultural District in Saddletree.
— An amendment to a conditional-use permit that will allow Donnie Dometirus McRae, of Red Springs, to operate a mobile home moving business with a mechanic shop to include storage of mobile homes on a 17.06-acre tract of land in a Residential-Agricultural District in Philadelphus.
— Moving $5,000 from well sites to a maintenance section of the Parks & Recreation Department’s budget.
— Moving a total of $3,141 from other/professional and incentives to travel/training and other supplies in the county Department of Public Health’s budget.
— The transfer of $8,380 from salaries and other equipment to miscellaneous expense in the county jail’s budget.
— Appropriating $20,000 so county Emergency Management can buy a building to store “several pieces of large equipment.”
— Appropriating $119,803 for low-income heating assistance programs.
— Appropriating $13,384 for building maintenance not completed under the fiscal year 2017 budget.
— Transferring $1,500 from insurance to supplies in the Health Department’s budget.
— A lease/purchase agreement between Home Trust Bank and the Queheel Fire Department and the Smyrna Fire Department so each department can buy a pumper tanker valued at $347,856.87.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]