According to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, ToD has learned that Senator Basnight is directing the efforts of local leaders as they seek to implement the plastic bag ban which goes into effect October 1st.  Basnight’s office has sent out detailed instructions as to what the Senator considers an acceptable paper bag program.  The cost of this program is going to come out of the pocket of the taxpayer, as usual. 

Local leaders have banded together to form an Alliance to implement Basnight’s plan.  The Alliance includes Lee Nettles, Managing Director of Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, Dare County Board of Commissioners Chair Warren Judge, John Bone, CEO of Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and Willo Kelly, Director of BlueGreen Outer Banks.  Based on the emails that I’ve seen, Lee Nettles seems to be the one charged with implementing the Senator’s vision.

According to emails, Basnight wants to see a program that involves (1) large bulk shipments from a single supplier with no distributors or middle men, (2) County sponsored warehouse space (3) identical printing on all paper bags and (4) a pick-up point for local businesses.   The goal is to have the Alliance pick up the tab for this program.

First off, let’s look at the supplier issue:  The Senator’s office is helping to procure the single source vendor.  Basnight’s office has provided information to the Alliance on potential vendors including Duro Bag, International Paper (IP) and AJM.  While Basnight’s office says that they “definitely should not manage the relationship with the bag manufacturers” they are making all the initial contacts and giving the Alliance direction on “things to consider” when selecting a vendor.  For instance, while most companies on the Outer Banks have already contracted with Duro Bag, Basnight’s office indicates that IP may be a better supplier for several reasons, one being that they employ more people in North Carolina.  Anyone see a problem with Basnight making the arrangements here?

Next, the warehousing.  The storage of the bags is a huge stumbling block as there are few climate controlled places here that can accommodate the massive quantities of paper bags that are going to be needed.  Commissioner Judge, in an email to Alliance members, offered up warehouse space at Public Works for storage.  While it would probably be inadequate (it is not climate controlled and could only accommodate one or two tractor trailer loads), it begs certain questions:  Should our tax dollars be used to offset the costs associated with this law?  Who will pay for the utilities associated with this public storage?  Will County employees be involved in accounting for the bags, pulling them off the shelves, loading and unloading them?   Is this a legitimate function for our County Government?

Third, we have printing.  The idea is to allow the Alliance members to each put their logos on the bags so long as they contribute to the “storage, admin costs or helping with shipping schedules and plans”.   Businesses will not be able to purchase bags with custom logos since that would increase costs.

Speaking of costs, who is bearing the costs of this program?

An email from Commissioner Judge, discussing a potential program for both re-usable and paper bags, asks Nettles “Can the DCTB [Dare County Tourism Board] afford to bank roll inventories of two different bags?”  This leads one to believe that the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, which is financed 100% through tax receipts, was planning to bear a lot of the costs associated with the program.  Further evidence of this is the reply from Nettles where he asks if the County or the Chamber are going to help financially.   Nettles goes on to say that unless their logo is on the bags, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau cannot ‘legally justify [their] financial involvement’.   To be considered ‘tourism promotion’, the OBVB logo has to be on the bags.  Nettles thinks he may be able to get around that little requirement through a “long term restricted infrastructure line item.”  How can the Visitor’s Bureau justify this expense anyway?  Their mission is to be the lead marketing and promotional agency for the Outer Banks.  Is managing this program within their mission?

These and many more issues have to be dealt with over the next six weeks before the October 1 effective date.  Based on the emails I’ve seen, if I were a small business owner, I’d make my own plans to get the bags needed for my business.  But getting the bags is only part of the battle.   Businesses have to update their cash registers to accommodate a cash refund to customers who bring in reusable bags (store credit is no longer allowed).  Businesses that were already subject to the ban have to change their bags to comply with the new content requirements.  New businesses subject to the ban must find a supplier if they want custom bags and they must find adequate climate controlled space for storage.  What a burden to place on our small businesses in this economy.