Solid waste fee recalculations at $60 to $168 per year in county

Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Don Ledford, above left, confers with Morgan Thomas.

There's been an increase in the proposed $50 solid waste fee calculated recently to cover a shortfall in revenue for operations of the Marshall County department funded with host fees paid by Cedar Ridge Landfill.

The new estimate is $60 annually for county residents who don't live in a town or city with garbage collection. An increase is needed because barns and vacant homes were erroneously counted as billable addresses.

County Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas and County Commissioner Don Ledford reported that and other reasons for the increased annual fee that would be charged to residents if the plan is approved by county commissioners when they meet at 6 p.m. July 27 in the Courthouse Annex on Lewisburg's public square.

Other reasons for an increase in the proposed fee include an anticipated rate of delinquent payments and adjustments that would be granted to disabled homeowners, those living in low-income housing and veterans, Ledford said.

Marshall County has been receiving fewer dollars from host fees paid by Cedar Ridge Landfill because Waste Management Inc. has been accepting fewer loads of trash for deposit at the landfill. Host fees payments are based on the amount of garbage buried at the landfill.

Fewer deliveries have been received in recent months because Cedar Ridge has been waiting for an answer from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation on whether it will grant a permit to Waste Management Inc. to use more land at Cedar Ridge. Hundreds of county residents went to a public hearing last year to oppose Waste Management's request for an expansion of the landfill. During that hearing and other meetings on the landfill expansion plan, some residents were heard to say that they'd be willing to pay for solid waste disposal if the landfill were closed.

That cost is being calculated now at $9 per month, or $108 annually, according to discussions at the most recent meeting of the Solid Waste Committee. It was on Thursday last week.

That $108 annual cost is anticipated if Cedar Ridge Landfill is closed. The money would be spent on various services such as the operation of convenience centers, hauling trash further and tipping fees paid to another landfill.

A 15 percent delinquency rate has been calculated to anticipate lower revenue when estimating the cost of the fees, the solid waste director said. Thomas used the percentage he said Lawrence County uses for its solid waste collections.

"But with this economy," Thomas said in reference to the recession, "I'd expect more, but I don't know how much."

Commissioner Wilford "Spider" Wentzel said one of his constituents asked if a cap could be placed on the $60 solid waste fee. Ledford replied that without knowing how much longer Cedar Ridge will remain open, it's impossible to know.

Wentzel and others have sought to limit how long the fee would be charged. It's much like a common complaint about the wheel tax that's been imposed to pay for one school's construction. The tax continues because other schools are to be built, but motorists recall that the tax was imposed to pay for a particular school.

County Commissioner Scottie Poarch asked if there was a way to lower the proposed fees. Wentzel suggested increasing the property tax rate to raise the money to cover the solid waste fee.

However, Ledford explained, that would make residents of municipalities pay twice for such services, since they're already served by their city council or town boards.

"The cities would cry foul," he said.

Wentzel countered, "I'll tell you when the cities will cry foul. It's when that mountain (landfill) closes."

Poarch pressed on other ways to keep the fee low such as a reduction in spending by the Solid Waste Department.

Thomas reviewed various aspects of his budget, explaining that some services, such as basic solid waste removal are required by the state. Services not required by the state include recycling.

But recycling, Commissioner Larry McKnight said, does generate some revenue.

"So, cutting that costs revenue," McKnight said, noting that trash disposal does not generate revenue.

Thomas replied, "It's a tough balancing act."

Ledford said, "It's absolutely imperative that we continue the recycling program."

The cost of solid waste removal, Wentzel said, "could be less if our cohorts in crime (the municipalities) would join us."

Ledford agreed.

"If everybody gets on board, it will cost less."