Leaders restless for info, landfill decision

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

County commissioners on a committee preparing for closure of Cedar Ridge Landfill - if the state doesn't permit expansion - advocate cooperation between local governments for garbage disposal when the landfill closes.

Waste Management Inc. has answered state questions on how it will protect ground water if it's allowed to cap a sinkhole at Cedar Ridge. State analysis of the proposal began Oct. 13 when, according to a state spokeswoman, local leaders were told they could expect a decision in 30-45 days.

Meanwhile, County Commission Chairman Billy Spivey is hoping for a decision by Thanksgiving.

"We're in limbo without the decision," Spivey said. "We'll have to create a fee and a revenue source if Cell 7 (at Cedar Ridge) is denied. It's at the 11th hour...

"The interesting thing is that if the expansion is granted, the fee would be null and void," he said, then wondering if a vote on the fee is even necessary on Monday night when the County Commission meets at 6 p.m. in the Courthouse Annex in Lewisburg.

If the state won't allow landfill expansion the landfill will be full and sometime next year it won't be able to accept deliveries. The county has the responsibility to have a trash disposal plan. Estimates on the longevity of the landfill vary, depending on the rate of deliveries.

A short-term plan on what to do then has been developed, but it comes with a $160 per year fee for households not served by municipalities. County commissioners are scheduled to vote Monday on a resolution to automatically start the fee if the state denies an expansion permit.

Given controversy over landfill plans in Marshall County, state and local officials fully expect an appeal to whatever decision is announced. An environmental group is seen as opposing expansion and Waste Management is expected to use the administrative process and the court system if it is denied permission to expand.

It's unclear how long appeals will take, but there's a limit on how much trash can be buried in the space left at Cedar Ridge.

"This is non-binding on anyone now," Commissioner Don Ledford, chairman of the County's Solid Waste Committee, said Thursday night about the pending resolution to create a solid waste fee. "Solid waste is an issue for everybody in the county and its municipalities."

County Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas reviewed options during the committee meeting. Options include: several local governments issuing a request for proposals from trash businesses on how to serve the county and; establishing a waste authority to deal with the issues.

Cornersville Mayor Amos Davis and Town Administrator Taylor Brandon were present and told about their town's contract with Waste Management for household trash collection.

Commissioner Mickey King said a waste authority could be organized - like the Marshall County Board of Public Utilities that provides water service - and Commissioner Larry McKnight suggested asking residents for ideas and examining the Maury Alliance as a structure for the suggested trash authority.

"We need to be very careful," Ledford said, "not to structure it so that others can't join."

Committeemen then quizzed each other on what they know about how Petersburg deals with trash.

"Is there anyway for us to get into that alliance?" Ledford asked. Thomas replied that he believed members of the alliance for Lincoln County communities would have to vote on whether to admit another member.

Allied Waste Services' trash transfer station in Giles County was seen as an alternative and Ledford noted it is nine miles from Cornersville. Allied operates the landfill north of Murfreesboro.

Discussion indicated a consensus that Marshall County is prepared with a short-term plan, however distasteful, with its $160 annual fee for county households. Some leaders apparently fear that complacency will set in if the state authorizes landfill expansion because there's a limit on how long Cedar Ridge will last and the issue will only return within a decade.

Having re-addressed the issue without an answer from the state, the committeemen turned to their realization that there were two meetings between officials of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and local leaders last month.


One group met in Nashville on Oct. 12 at TDEC headquarters in the L&C Tower. The other met Oct. 13 in Marshall County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett's conference room in the Courthouse Annex.

"If they met on the 12th, why didn't we have minutes?" McKnight asked. "I'm getting tired of public bureaucracy that thinks they can do that," meet with one group, and not tell the other that's involved in the same issue.

"They played games from the start," the commissioner said. "It's time somebody called their hand. It's very evident that if they didn't tell us, they're hiding something.

"We're part of the regional group," he said of the Marshall-Maury Regional Solid Waste Board, a state-required panel.

McKnight moved and the committee unanimously agreed Thursday to ask County Commission Chairman Billy Spivey to direct the county attorney to investigate what happened.

In a telephone interview on Monday night, Spivey said that directing County Attorney Ginger Shofner to investigate two meetings between different groups of local leaders would probably be fruitless.

Unless two members of the same governmental panel attended, there was no open meetings issue, and if there were, both sessions were apparently little more than informational sessions.

Names provided by TDEC's spokeswoman indicate no local government panel was represented by more than one person, although without a sign-in sheet the list could be incomplete.

The state's information, however, clearly indicated two TDEC officials and Chapel Hill Mayor Carl Cooper attended both.

None of them mentioned the Oct. 12 meeting the next day when at the Marshall County mayor's office, the second meeting was delayed as they waited for Maury County Mayor Jim Bailey to arrive. Bailey was at the Oct. 12 meeting and when told that, Liggett asked why didn't somebody say something so they could proceed?

Spivey said he's concluded the same information was shared and discussed at both meetings.