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Wood waste disposal woes stir debate

South Boston News
Wood and tree debris on Peach Avenue in South Boston / September 20, 2021

There’s no ready-made option for disposal of large tree wastes in Halifax County, and the Town of South Boston does not have the wherewithal to help professional tree-cutters get rid of wood debris, said Town Manager Tom Raab at last week’s meeting of South Boston Town Council.

The topic was brought to the attention of Council members by David Rose, recently retired owner of Rose Tree and Stump Removal, a tree-cutting service in the county. He approached Council on behalf of his son and nephew who operate their own local tree service business.

Rose pressed Council to allow the disposal of wood wastes at the Hamilton Boulevard convenience center, where two large green boxes are stationed to take in large household items such as furniture, appliances and other trash items, including tree branches. The Town, however, does not allow residents to dump trees, stumps and other large pieces of wood in the boxes.

The Town operates two trash disposal trucks that are capable of taking in tree limbs and other oversized refuse, but “we don’t have the capacity [to accept bulk wood waste] and it really is a responsibility of the county when it comes right down to it,” said Raab.

Since Halifax County also doesn’t take in residential wood wastes at the waste transfer station, tree-cutters are left with limited options, said Rose — either find private individuals who are willing to store the wood debris on their property, or haul off the waste to the Southside Regional Landfill between Chase City and South Hill.

“This is our town, we are here to help the people,” said Rose to Council. “[Residents] don’t know what to do and can’t afford us to haul it to Chase City.”

Rose said he been able to turn to private businesses and individuals — mentioning Kenny Hodges with H & M Logging, and Jack Dunavant with Dunavant Engineering and Construction — to dispose of some of the trees his company has chopped down.

Transporting the refuse to the regional landfill can double the cost of tree and limb removal for local homeowners, he explained.

“I can’t keep using my friends to haul this [wood] to their land and we need some help,” said Rose, adding, “We give away the logs to those who need it for firewood.”

Rose made a suggestion to Council members, asking them to consider the possibility of setting aside one day a week at the Hamilton Boulevard convenience center for Town residents to discard their wood wastes. To prevent non-residents from taking advantage of the service, he said, the Public Works department could keep a list of house numbers and residents’ names and cross-check that information with anyone who drives up.

Mayor Ed Owens asked Raab if the idea was allowed under town ordinance.

“What’s the rule for this, Mr. Raab?” asked Owens.

“The rule is, if a professional tree cutter comes in, it is their responsibility to get rid of [wood debris],” said Raab.

There are five others tree cutters who work in the Town of South Boston, he added, and Rose is the only one who has ever complained several times at the town office.

“We don’t have a dump,” said Raab.

When the town has to cut a tree down, Raab added, some of the waste wood is burned, some is ground up and then it is hauled to NOVEC power plant, at substantial expense to the town.

The wood wastes that get swept up in town trash trucks go to the county’s waste transfer station for shipment to the regional landfill in Mecklenburg County, but that option is not available to individual homeowners and landowners.

Councilman Bill Snead agreed tree waste disposal is a problem for local residents.

“This debris is all over the county,” said Snead, who asked for options to address the problem.

Assistant Town Manager Dennis Barker reiterated that each tree service handles tree wastes in their own fashion, and South Boston doesn’t have the resources to do that work for them

“We have seen an increase in residential pick-ups and we have staff shortages. We have two trucks, but they pick up more than just brush, like Mr. Raab said,” said Barker.

“We do a lot to help small businesses … but we had to cut that out,” said Barker.

In other action at the Sept. 13 meeting off Town Council”

» Tamyra Vest, executive director of Destination Downtown South Boston (DDSB), reviewed the work of DDSB to distribute $500,000 in small business recovery grants to Halifax County businesses since the pandemic struck in early 2020.

“The focus for the past year and a half has been to keep small businesses alive,” said Vest.

DDSB focused on using the grant program to help save mom-and-pop businesses that were hit hard by pandemic-related economic shutdowns, Vest said. She said the Halifax County Small Business Assistance Fund has dispensed the $500,000 grant pool to 60 local businesses, and she hopes to secure $100,000 more from the state to give out additional grants.

“They have verbally told us we can have more money, we’re just waiting the formal announcement,” said Vest. The small business assistance program is administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.

In spring 2020 the town received additional funding to award $2,000 Downtown Improvement Grants to businesses that went through a training program to sustain their operations.

» Town Manager Raab recognized Mayor Ed Owens for being named to Virginia Business magazine’s Virginia 500 – The 2021 Power List.

Owens was recognized by Virginia Business for his influence as chairman of the Virginia Tobacco Commission and for his business and civic accomplishments.

“Thank you, it was a surprise to me and quite an honor. I will try my best to represent South Boston the best I can every time,” said Owens.

» Council members recognized Constitution Week with a resolution presented to Berryman Green Chapter DAR member Anne Raab.

» Owens and Barker will attend the Virginia Municipal League annual conference next month in Leesburg. The VML strives to strengthen local governments through advocacy, education, and information.

» Council approved a reduction of its membership on the Southside Planning District Commission as the SSPDC shrinks its board from 28 to 17 members. South Boston’s representation will go from four members to two; all other localities also have agreed to reduce their number of directors to make the board more responsive.

Bill Snead cast the lone no vote. “The town could reduce their representation from four to three, but I’m baffled they want to cut us in half,” said Snead.

» Council approved a signage permit for a hair salon owned by Cissy Martin located at 1015 Arch Street.

» Council agreed to a request by Finance Director Mickey Wilkerson to charge off $18,201.33 in delinquent real estate taxes for the year 2000 and personal property taxes for the year 2015. Due to policy, only 20 years of delinquent real estate taxes can be carried on the town’s financial statements and five years for delinquent property tax.

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