Here’s what you can do about the Madison County’s trash card issue.

We’re using the survey to directly figure out what the needs of the community are.
Share it with 3-10 of your friends, families, and neighbors!

Write emails/letters to your County Commissioners.

Click here to email to all five Madison County Commissioners about the trash card, or write your own.
We’ve got a sample letter you can use!

To follow up, we suggest the following:

  • Ask them to reply to your letter and ask for a meeting, if you’d like
  • If they don’t reply, email them a reminder every 2-3 days
  • Call and leave messages if they don’t’ reply
  • Modify your letter and send it to the Alderman for your town asking for them to show their support for changes 

Join the Trash Card Working group.

Our Trash Card working group meets Fridays at 4pm on Zoom. Sign up if you can!

Join a “night of action”.

We’ll be making calls to our friends and neighbors to get more surveys (using your person list or ours) or work on our letters to Commissioners together. Drop in when you can from 6-8 pm on Tuesday via Zoom. RSVP here!

Speak at the Board of Commissioners meeting! (Samples below)

Next week on Tuesday, April 13th at 7:00pm, there’s a Board of Commissioners meeting. If you would like to attend to make a public comment on this topic at the meeting (in person, distanced) or want to send public comment via email, please rsvp here.

Below is suggested language that you can use to advocate for changes. Remember that you only have up to three minutes for public comments. You can say something like:

  • My name is ________ and I appreciate the opportunity to speak tonight.
  • I am a Madison County resident who is affected by this issue (and share how)


  • I have heard from many people in the community who are affected by this issue (share more about who and why if you’d like) 


  • I am here to support Down Home Madison’s efforts to improve the way our fee is assessed, including the amount of the fee and whether funds are collected as a fee or a tax, as well as expand financial assistance and outreach. I urge you to hear your constituents on these issues.

Please consider the following (you can say all, pick some, expand on the ones you are most passionate about, etc): 

  • I would like to see you consider changing the structure of funding solid waste services from an Enterprise Fund based fee to the property tax based General Fund. 
  • This fee has been improperly treated like a tax since 1999 with exemptions for non-profits and subsidies for some our our eldery and disabled neighbors.  The Counties’ recent revelation about the legality of that process has caused you all to scramble to patch the system as best as you can, but in a complex way.  But Reverting to a tax would make the cost of trash disposal more equitable for residents. of our county in a very straightforward way, while at the same time exempting non-profits.  According to the Justice Policy Center, the top 5% of our county’s wealthiest residents generate over 25 times the wealth of the bottom of 20%. This shows that we could allow people’s ability to pay based on their wealth.  
  • I urge that you implement three immediate changes to the current system, as we are nearing our current budget cycle:
    • Even if the General Tax fund method of financing is adopted, we need to see study and report on the expansion of subsidies to folks who can’t afford to pay. 
      • The parameters for assistance in this county do not benefit many of the folks who need it most– we need more ways to help folks who fall between the cracks of being over 65 and/or disabled and making under $30,000 per year.
    • Second, I ask that you add a line item into the budget to fund effective outreach about the trash card fee– materials to promote the fact that assistance is provided, explain the appeals process, and inform folks of changes in fees. We deserve clear, concise materials and adequate outreach to inform us.
      • We know there were over 900 appeals to fees this year, but we know that most folks had no idea there was an appeals process at all
      • There is still not public clarity about whether the appeals process has ended or is still open until June. This is unacceptable and unfair to our residents who are doing the best they can. 
    • Third, please modify the appeals process so that it works for everyday people. The current process is confusing, dysfunctional, and wasteful. We can do a lot better than this. 
  • Hold a public hearing on this matter well in advance of drafting changes to the Solid Waste Ordinance, to get input and ideas from folks who have been most impacted by this issue, so that as you make the decision about how to fix this issue, you are considering real life experiences. 
  • Create a special commission, composed of both government officials and citizens who are knowledgeable about this issue, to oversee the changes we decide to go with.

    Sample Closing: 

  • I appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your proposal to fix this 22 year old problem that is burdening our residents, our health, and our environment. (State your name, contact info, address/area of county.) 

Following up with the County Commissioners

It is always best to follow-up on your public comment with an email, if possible. You can say more than the 3 minute comment allows in an email and also ask for a reply or even a personal meeting (you can ask for a phone call, ZOOM, or in-person) to talk more with the commissioner. Be sure to include your address in this follow-up. 

Here is information for the Commissioners: 

Next Commission Meeting: February 9th at 7 pm @ Co-op Extension Center

Context & Overview

Down Home Working Group Meeting: Friday at 4 pm: RSVP here

Concerned community members who have been worried about this for a while will be updating on this topic and also gauging interest from folks who want to organize to help the commissioners come up with a better solution by involving the public in the process.

This is a very complicated issue that cannot be boiled down easily. Below is more information and context to try to help folks understand, since there aren’t easily attainable resources that explain the process in simple terms.

Issue Overview:

There have been long standing issues with the dump fee in Madison County. There is mass confusion about whether the fee is indeed a fee or a tax. Fees can accrue fines– so folks who have been unable to pay the $180 fee for a number of reasons might face additional fines that keep them unable to pay. Another issue is that some folks who are tenants and don’t own their land aren’t given cards by their landlords, so they’re unable to dump trash. At the end of the day, a lot of trash is being dumped right outside of dump sites by people who are turned away, and that is a public health concern as well as a danger to the environment. There is a group of concerned citizens who are working to find out why this dump card issue is causing so many problems for everyday people to dump their trash. If you want to get involved, we welcome you to join the group to help find a better solution by updating the policy about how much the fee costs(and why), what the best way to collect the fee is, and whether the fee is actually a fee or a tax, among many other questions.

Special Meetings on this topic were held on 1/26 (Full notes here) and 3/23. 

  • 1/26 Meeting: There was a non-videoed work session with an item titled “solid waste ordinance amendment consideration” on the agenda. It turned out that, at this meeting, it was said this has been an issue for 22 years and the Commissioners know they need to address it. This meeting was central to granting an extension to the appeals process that many everyday people did not know existed. The appeals were supposed to end in February, but Commissioners got so many appeals that they decided more time was needed, so they granted a temporary extension of the appeals process until the 2/27 closed work session, where they said they’d extend it to March 15th, after their next meeting.
  • March update: Some people say the appeals process ended on 3/15 and some say it goes til mid June. We are currently seeking clarity on this. It was said Commissioners would hold a vote on this, but no public information has been shared about the status of this. 

The Appeals Process:

There is an appeals process for people who want to dispute their fee.

  • In Madison County “general statutes” are clear that all residents have to be charged the “availability fee” of $180 for trash disposal.
  • You can ask the Solid Waste Department to come to your property to process an appeal.
  • This process is headed up by the Director of the Solid Waste Department, Sam Lunford. You have to call them to set-up an appeal at 828-649-2311. This appeal from the SWD will be based on whether you have an “improved property” (aka “liveable dwelling”) on your property. If you don’t, you likely may not be granted the appeal.

HOWEVER, the County Commissioners have the ultimate authority over appeals. So, you can try to email your appeals to them– as many folks have cited a lack of income, being a tenant who has been unable to get a card, or other issues not covered by the assessment done by the solid waste office.

The County Commission will be discussing this topic in their upcoming work session (no public comment) on 2/25 at 6 pm at 5707 US 25-70 Hwy, Marshall and at the March County Commission Meeting on March 9th at 6 pm at the Co-op Extension office at 257 Carolina Lane, Marshall. Especially if they are related to a lack of income, being a tenant who has been unable to get a card, or other issues not covered by the assessment done by the solid waste office.