City pinched by landfill

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lewisburg has a financial problem with the state's pending decision to deny expansion of Cedar Ridge Landfill.

In anticipation of Waste Management obtaining a state permit to expand its landfill and the availability of free dumping - offered when Lewisburg's City Council voted for expansion - the Council adopted a budget without an appropriation for dumping this fiscal year.

Waste Management promised to let Lewisburg start dumping city trash collections at Cedar Ridge Landfill as soon as the company got a permit to expand. In November 2008, the Council voted to let the company pursue its request with the state. At the time, at least one landfill company leader said he thought the state might have an answer in the summer of 2009. Last summer, the Council adopted a budget without its usual $130,000 appropriation to pay "tipping fees" to use the landfill.

"We're about $70,000 in the hole on tipping fees," City Manager Eddie Fuller said Wednesday as the city's annual budget was more than six months old.

The fiscal year started July 1. Lewisburg's $11 million budget was approved in May.

"I have zero budgeted now" for tipping fees, City Treasurer Connie Edde said, "because they were to have had their permit by July 1."

Now, tipping fees paid to dump trash at landfills are being paid by Lewisburg from reserves in its treasury.

Lewisburg isn't the only local government in the region facing financial issues if the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation forces Waste Management to close Cedar Ridge.

Maury County Mayor Jim Bailey and members of the Maury County Commission's Health and Environment Committee have expressed concern that closure of Cedar Ridge Landfill could mean higher costs for Maury County residents' trash disposal, according to the Columbia Daily Herald's lead story on Wednesday. County commissioners there might soon be voting on a largely symbolic resolution supporting Waste Management's application to expand to use 11 acres at Cedar Ridge Landfill where trash hasn't been dumped. Those 11 acres include a large sinkhole.

So, as TDEC is accepting public comment on Commissioner Jim Fyke's decision against issuing a "draft permit" pending final conclusions, Lewisburg's Council is scheduled on Tuesday to consider what to do if the landfill is closed.

"We're going to talk about our options," Fuller said.

He and Mayor Barbara Woods have discussed the situation in recent weeks.

"I'd like us to work on the important issues," Woods said at City Hall on Tuesday when asked about a recurring question - one of several "hot button issues," including whether the Council should be making personnel decisions delegated by the Charter to the city manager.

"The solid waste problem" is one of the "important issues," she said. "I'd like us to get more participation" in that and other substantive issues.

Fuller's assessment of options includes issuance of a Request For Proposals (RFP) from contractors, vendors and other service providers who could offer solutions to the issue.

Noting that Cornersville and Chapel Hill have contracts with Waste Management for collection and disposal of household trash, Fuller said, "We'll probably put out some RFPs out."

Since late last summer, Fuller and town administrators Taylor Brandon in Cornersville and Mike Hatten at Chapel Hill have met a few times to explore options for the municipalities, Fuller said.

Lewisburg has its own Public Works with a Sanitation Department and a Streets Department. Chapel Hill and Cornersville don't own garbage trucks.

"Privatization" of Lewisburg's trash collection still leaves city trucks for curbside collection of recyclable metal, plastic and paper, Fuller noted.

Such options are to be presented to the Council when it convenes at 6 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 131 East Church St.