BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – Bristol, Virginia taxpayers could soon see their trash collection fee double if newly introduced taxes and fees are included in the city’s next budget.
As costs to fix the city’s odorous landfill climb higher, Bristol, Virginia taxpayers who have suffered under the smell could be footing more of the bill to fix it.
At Tuesday night’s Bristol, Virginia City Council meeting, City Manager Randy Eads presented the budget for FY2024.
In the proposed budget, trash collection fees would increase from $33 to $72-$73, according to Bristol, Virginia Mayor Neal Osborne.
The budget would also see increases in the city’s real estate, meal and lodging taxes.
Real estate tax would increase from $1.12 to $1.17. Lodging taxes would increase from 9 percent to 13 percent and the meal tax would increase to 10 percent.
Osborne said the tax increases would generate “$3-$4 million dollars” for the city.
The trash rate is also being considered as the city experiences higher operational costs and lost revenue with the landfill being closed since September 2022. This has forced the city to take its trash to a landfill in Blountville.
But, it was also revealed at the Tuesday night meeting that the bill to pay for landfill remediation efforts is getting steeper.
The city now estimates the total cost for remediation to be over $60 million.
With tight deadlines on several projects signed after Virginia sued the city, Osborne said the city needs the money now.
“We’ve got about a $28 million gap in our budget relating to funding this, which puts us in a very tight situation,” Osborne said. “We have to fund these projects. These are mandated. We’ve agreed to do these projects, so we have to find funding sources.”
But the proposal has not been popular among some Bristol, Virginia residents, including Chris Knupp who lives just across the street from the older section of the landfill.
Knupp said it is unfair to put the costs onto residents who have suffered.
“It’s unheard of,” Knupp said. “More than $70 a month to get our trash picked up? I don’t think we have to pay for their mistakes, and I hate to say it that way. I know we need the money, but it’s still not our mistake.”
The odor has been an unwelcome guest in Knupp’s home, which he said he’s lived in for 40 years.
He told News Channel 11 it has caused him breathing problems, violated his home and at times kept him off his beloved porch over the last two years.
With the potential of paying higher taxes and the increased trash fee, Knupp said he has considered leaving.
“As each year goes by here lately, I’m ready to sell out,” Knupp said. “I’m over Bristol, Virginia and the mistakes they’ve made. Everything’s costing us more.”
But city leaders are still pursuing external funding from higher levels of government that would cover the bulk of the landfill costs.
Osborne said the city is asking for $12 million in the state budget and over $50 million from the federal government’s yearly appropriations bill.
“I’ve been working to get letters of support from outside organizations to make the case for us,” Osborne said. “It’s very important that we find ways to fund these projects that minimize the impact.”
Work continues at the landfill. On Wednesday, crews began drilling for a major gas well expansion.
35 new wells will be installed that will pull gases from deep within the landfill.
Those gases will be sent to the landfill’s new sidewall odor mitigation system, which is still in the process of being completed.
“We’ve seen greatly increased amounts of those gases being pumped out,” Osborne said. “I imagine we’ll see an even bigger number once the large-diameter wells are done.”
The city warned drilling into the trash heap could stir up an elevated level of odor.
Knupp said although the odors have improved since the city closed the landfill, the potential for escaping gases during the drilling is a concern.
Crews will cap unfinished wells overnight during the construction process to prevent as much gas from escaping as possible.