Carving out a niche for private enterprise
Poole describes his efforts to lobby state legislators to consider the role of private providers in the waste management business. His efforts were successful: he won some protections against fines and seizure of his business that were the first of their kind in the United States.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Lonnie Poole, March 22, 1999. Interview I-0085. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
JM: Did you ever have to walk the halls over in the Legislative Building and the Capitol Building and try to twist arms. Was that ever a part of your--.
LP: Oh yeah.
JM: Yeah. How did you find your way into that?
LP: The first ten years, I spent more time in City Halls and County Courthouses, and our involvement was more at the local level. But I guess I would have to say that in the middle '80s the Federal acts, you had the Clean Air Act; you had the Resource Recovery, RRCA '76 Act; as well as a number of other Federal mandates that that precipitated state legislation. In that legislation we often found that especially in North Carolina that the private sector was almost forgotten as an alternative. It was a city/county function almost to the complete neglect that the private sector even was involved or had any contribution to make. So the first ten years I would say from '80, all during the '80s, it was a matter of carving out a place for private companies.
JM: On this theme--.
LP: The legislation always was written and the law was written for cities and counties. Well, there were a lot of things that were different in cities and counties. One, we pay taxes; they consume taxes. There was almost, there was an evolving standard that was expected, and the inspections were not made on an evenhanded basis. The inspections were much tougher for a private company than they were for a public company. It was, government when it regulates government is probably seen in its worst form because it was not a level playing field economically or legislatively. So finding myself in the halls of the North Carolina Legislature and South Carolina Legislature was primarily one to try to in some way to level the playing field. It was extremely unlevel at the time. North Carolina was the first state through, and I've got to brag on our company, through Jim Perry and my efforts down there, we were the first state to get three major pieces of legislation, and they may seem small but one was weight relief. Our trucks got stopped and were overloaded, and we paid serious fines. Cities and counties did not. We did not get that practice discontinued totally, but we did get a ruling that cities and counties could be fined for overloading trucks if caught on the public highways.
JM: When abouts did that happen, that ruling? In the '80s.
LP: The second thing is if our trucks did get caught is that we and cities and counties would be entitled to a fifty percent fine rate. So that was good legislation. That was one part of it. Second part is a just comp piece of legislation that says if a city annexes my business, then the city it amounts to a taking, then the city must pay us a multiple of our monthly revenues. That was the second part of it that we got approved.
JM: And that legislation specified the multiple?
LP: It did.
LP: And it's still to this day somewhat novel in the entire country. There are probably thirty or forty states that have now adopted that legislation, which was first adopted here in North Carolina. The other was, is that we had to compete against cities, and we were paying fairly substantial fuel taxes. For the large part that fuel was being used to compact the waste, and we were not actually consuming the fuel on the highway. So it was a combination vehicle that used the fuel for dual purpose. One to compact and to collect and lift it up and do all these things plus transport. So we got another piece of legislation called Fuel Tax Rebate, and we actually get back in this state to this day, a third of our fuel tax.