Senior Staff Writer
More people spoke against expansion of Cedar Ridge Landfill than those who spoke for its proposed expansion, according to an independent count at the City Council hearing on the request Monday night.
With 15 people testifying before the Council, 10 opponents outnumbered five landfill expansion advocates by a ratio of exactly 2-1 in an audience counted at nearly the capacity of the City Hall meeting room.
However, statements from 150 people supporting the expansion were delivered to the Council by Andy Robinson of Webb Road, he said. Furthermore, Waste Management has reduced odor from the landfill and after 15 years the landfill isn't changing property values in that area west of Lewisburg, Robinson said.
Odor and property values are two of eight state standards against which Waste Management Inc.'s expansion request is to be judged. Several opponents criticized Waste Management's summary of state standards, saying the company ignored issues of health, safety and welfare.
Calling the landfill a "growing cancer," Betsy Ledford told the Council "You can sever it." She contrasted that with her description of a contract with Marshall County commissioners who voted 11-7 in the summer of 2007 to let the expansion permit request continue toward judgment by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The county receives a host fee for allowing landfill operations. The contract that returns half that fee to Waste Management for convenience center operations also restrained the county from blocking permit requests, according to two commissioners serving on a two-county solid waste board which, over the commissioners' objections, found the landfill in line with its trash disposal plan.
It was clearly an emotional meeting Monday. Many Waste Management employees, friends and relatives were present wearing stickers stating "Support the Landfill." Yet the hearing was contrasted by Mayor Bob Phillips who asked the audience to refrain from applause or other outbreaks. Uniformed police were present for the hearing as Phillips recalled a verbal conflict after a similar meeting in City Hall on the landfill.
"I want to make sure we don't have anything like that again" the mayor said.
The Council had to conduct the hearing on the eight landfill operation criteria because the panel voted last spring to adopt provisions of state law giving council members authority to stop a landfill permit from being processed by TDEC.
A vote by the Council was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday on whether Waste Management's expansion plan meets state standards. Three councilmen have a track record of votes that indicate their support for the expansion.
Councilman Hershel Davis shook his head to reply "no" when asked Monday night if he heard anything to change his mind about favoring expansion.
Councilmen Phil Sanders and Robin Minor were less specific, if not actually non-committal when asked. They've voted for the landfill.
Newly-appointed Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. also refrained from making a clear statement other than to again indicate he'd do what he believes the residents want done.
Councilwoman Quinn Brandon has consistently spoken against expansion and advocated strong bargaining with Waste Management. She's noted the company pays the county a host fee, but the city must pay a tipping fee to deposit trash at the landfill.
City residents pay $12.50 per month on their utilities bills for trash service and the subject was raised by the people who spoke to the Council Monday night.
"Will we get the $12.50 reduced from our utility bill?" Betty Biggers of Cornersville Road asked the Council among several questions posed during her time among other speakers opposing landfill expansion.
Kathy Fox of Cornersville, the president of the Tri-County Environmental Association that's expanded its purpose since it arose to oppose Waste Management's plan for a landfill at Cornersville, said continuation of Cedar Ridge Landfill will continue to make Marshall County "a dumping ground."
The landfill has six "cells" where trash has been buried. The last area is nearly full. Without what Waste Management calls "Cell 7," the landfill will probably have to stop accepting trash deliveries within a year. Expansion could extend the life of the landfill by five years or more, depending on the rate of deliveries.
However, "Cell 7" is practically surrounded by the rest of Cedar Ridge.
"Why did they go around it?" Fox said. "Do they know that (use of that area with a sinkhole) will cause problems?"
The sinkhole would be "capped," according to Waste Management leaders, so the earth below would be protected.
"There's a reason they haven't used 'Cell 7,' Fox told the Council. "Wouldn't you like to know it?"
When originally permitted, Cedar Ridge received a license from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to use Cells 1-6 and while that point wasn't made Monday night, the company was to have time to present its case to the Council Tuesday afternoon about the time the presses for this printed edition of the Marshal County Tribune were rolling.
For updates on this landfill story go to www.marshalltribune.com.
"TDEC has shown they will not help protect us," Fox said. "We have to do it for ourselves."
Countering that argument was Tony Buchholz of Hunters Chase near Chapel Hill. He bought his home near the Rogers Group quarry and opposed development of Marshall County Stone, another quarry on land adjoining the longstanding Pottsville Quarry. In so doing, Buchholz became familiar with DE and its regulatory role to protect clean air and water.
"I have faith in TDEC and their judgment," Buchholz told the Council.
Economic factors became a subject for the hearing. County Commissioner Seth Warf said he drives a bus to take people to his church for a free meal. About 70-80 percent of the people of his district are in low to moderate income households, Warf said.
Referring to letters to the Council advocating expansion, Warf said, "They're asking you for help. You all know we're losing jobs here.
County commissioners voted to permit the expansion, he said. "It was a long, hard decision," Warf said. "I know it's a hard decision."
Warf works for Duck River Electric Corp.
"I set and remove meters," he said. "When I have to cut someone's lights off and they say, 'Daddy lost his job...' Keep that in mind when you vote on the expansion."
Sanford Corp last week announced that all 355 jobs at its Lewisburg plant will be eliminated here. Other plants have cut back on operating hours. Others are abut to start annual winter shutdowns.
Many of the nearly 100 people in the audience were wearing Waste Management work jackets.