LELAND — The Town of Leland’s decision to close its free vegetative debris drop-off site has garnered pushback from residents after dozens showed up to Thursday’s Council meeting to speak up about the topic that was not on the town’s agenda.
During the budget process last year, the town decided to only fund the debris drop-off site on Lanvale Road for sixth months. So after Jan. 11, residents accustomed to using the service arrived at the site and were met with an unwelcome surprise.
Petition and pushback
Brayton Willis, member of the town’s Transportation Oversight Committee but speaking as an individual, read aloud a petition signed by more than 120 people. The petition asks the town to keep the site open and opposes its closure.
Other public speakers cited concerns with the lack of public notice ahead of the site’s closure, disappointment with the town letting go an admired part-time employee who managed the site, and displeasure with being left out of the decision-making process.
The nearest debris drop-off site that accepts vegetative debris is located 4 miles from the now-closed Lanvale Road site on Chappell Loop Road. This convenience site is operated by Brunswick County and charges fees that range from $3 per one 40-pound bag to $30 for a full truckload of yard debris. The site is open between 8 a.m, and 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
Town Manager David Hollis explained at the Thursday meeting that Leland decided to close the site to make room for several other town services, including the establishment of an animal control facility, police impound yard, staff parking, equipment storage, and expanding the public services building. He estimated the site cost the town more than $50,000 annually to operate with no ability to recoup expenses since it was a free service.
It also was a liability for the town due to safety reasons, Hollis said.
“The site was never designed to be a debris drop-off site. Essentially the town has been running a makeshift drop-off site for some time,” he said. Also, it only serves an “isolated” portion of the town’s residents because many homeowners receive grounds and maintenance services with their property associations.
One public speaker and Snee Farm resident, Mike Kochasic, doubted the town’s reasoning. “People not using the site? Really? Every time I was there it was packed. All the time. Liability. Really? Dumping leaves and branches isn’t really that dangerous. It’s not,” he said at the meeting.
Hilary Snow, the town’s spokesperson, said the town did not anticipate the public response to closing the site. The town included a notice about the closure on its “Trash & Recycling” page on its website along with a physical notice at the property.
Council has directed staff to analyze operating costs required to keep the site open, according to Snow. New possibilities are also under consideration, including introducing fees or finding a new location for the vegetative debris removal service. An update will be provided next month.
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