Burning the Debt

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Business owner Charlie Hilton says the county had 15 years with a sales tax to pay off the incinerator, yet the debt still remains. A commercial running with Hilton standing in front of the incinerator blames the county for poor management.

"About 16 years ago we passed a 15-year, half-cent sales tax to pay off the debt on this incinerator. The county has collected more than three times enough from that tax to pay that debt off," is an excerpt from the commercial.

Twenty years ago, the county borrowed $60 million to build the garbage incinerator, and today the debt totals $41.1 million.

Pam Brangaccio, the Bay County Manager, says we may be in debt, but others in the state are worse off.

"Incinerators tend to be between $45-$55 per ton right now statewide. Our rates are at $31 per ton. That's what the sales tax has enabled basically all of Bay County's residents to enjoy."

If the tax does not pass, starting October 1 the county will increase the fee for trash haulers by $4. In the past, that same increase has been directly passed along to homeowners in their monthly bill.

Hilton still wants an answer to why the county keeps collecting money for the incinerator.

Brangaccio says the money was well spent.

"That 15 years of sales tax monies went directly into the solid waste operation. Again, it kept our garbage rate about half in terms of the average incinerator."

Brangaccio also says they will have to look at storm water assessment fees, a gas tax and property taxes to pay for other projects on the sales tax project list.

With our without the sales tax, the county will pay the incinerator debt under the current plan until 2023 with the total bill adding up to $152.4 million.