Recycling help accepted, fees for trash disposal acknowledged

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Marshall County will accept help from Waste Management Inc. to continue its recycling program, according to one of several split commission votes on Monday night.

And, in a non-voting session after their monthly meeting, commissioners faced the prospect of a monthly fee of $13.33 charged to every household beyond a municipal line in the county to pay for a short-term plan if and when Cedar Ridge Landfill must be closed.

It's a contingency plan that's controversial among commissioners because the landfill is reaching capacity as currently permitted by the state. Meanwhile, some commissioners say a plan must be in place before the landfill closes. Others say they'd rather not vote for a fee unless it's needed.

Waste Management is waiting for the Department of Environment and Conservation to decide whether the company may use property at Cedar Ridge where waste hasn't been buried because it wasn't part of the original plan for the landfill.

Pollution of Vickrey Spring by liquids from the landfill has delayed TDEC's consideration of Waste Management's expansion request, according to Robert Cheney, Waste Management's business development manager.

Consideration might resume when the spring's water is clear, but pollution from sediment that's muddied the water has been the subject of another order from TDEC.

Waste Management is "closely reviewing" the state order and will confer with TDEC for environmental protection and landfill operations, company spokeswoman Terri Douglas said.

The company has "a range of sediment control and pollution prevention strategies in place" and the safety of the environment and neighbors is "our constant focus" as the company works to comply.

More sediment controls and details on past and present controls will be provided as directed by TDEC's order, she said. Effective plans and engineering need time for completion. A timetable for the plans is being developed for review with TDEC.

Without knowing if or when the landfill must close or resume business at normal levels, Waste Management reduced the volume of trash it will accept. That lowered host fee payments to the county and, therefore, the county's solid waste budget for recycling. Commissioners last month defeated a fee to fully fund recycling, apparently in part because the company offered to help with trucks, drivers and other assistance for recycling.

The value of Waste Management's help was estimated by Cheney at $50 per household. The county's solid waste director, Morgan Thomas, says there are 5,643 affected homes in the county beyond a municipal line. The value of Waste Management's offer is, therefore, estimated at $282,150.

Voting to accept Waste Management's help on recycling were Commissioners Tony White, Jimmy Stitt, Seth Warf, Phil Willis, Richard Medley, Dean Delk, E.W. Hill, Rocky Bowden, Scottie Poarch, Jimmy Wolaver and Billy Spivey.

Voting no were Commissioners Wilford "Spider" Wentzel, Larry McKnight and Don Ledford.

Abstaining were Commissioners Reynelle Peacock Smith, Mary Ann Neill, Tony Williams and Mickey King.

"Will the headline read that seven commissioners voted to cost the taxpayers money?" asked Chapel Hill Alderwoman Marion Joyce, who pointed out that an abstention counts as a no vote.

Joyce has been part of a recurring delegation from Chapel Hill to resist cost increases associated with the landfill.

Williams was sworn in Monday night as a new commissioner, replacing Linda Williams-Lee who resigned because she moved out of the district she represented.

Ledford and King said they were dismayed with the way the resolution was filed by Spivey without going through the Solid Waste Committee that recommended acceptance of Waste Management help after terms of the contract were reviewed by County Attorney Ginger Shofner. She saw no substantive issues to stop consideration of Waste Management's offer.

Neill and Ledford expressed distrust in Waste Management. The county and the company have had a contentious relationship, depending on the issue and the composition of the commission or some of its committees.

But the unanswered question remains. Will the state let Cedar Ridge expand?

Tennessee counties are required to have a solid waste management plan and now the county's plan is to send trash to Cedar Ridge. If the state denies Waste Management's request to expand Cedar Ridge, the county's plan must change.

How that's to work was the subject of lengthy discussion during the commission's workshop after a 2-1/2 hour monthly meeting. Commissioners gathered at 6 p.m. and were leaving the Courthouse Annex at about 10 p.m.