Cities may proceed on trash plans

Friday, March 26, 2010
County Commissioner Rocky Bowden makes a point as City Attorney Bill Haywood observes the proceedings in the Courthouse Annex.

After more than a year of public discussion on what to do if the landfill west of Lewisburg must close, Marshall County's municipalities are in a position to hire a trash company that owns the landfill north of Murfreesboro.

And that's OK, according to Marshal County Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas, because the short-term plan developed by county commissioners on the solid waste committee would probably last about as long as the cities' contract with Allied Waste.

Lewisburg, Cornersville and Chapel Hill obtained bids on trash service for the residents of those municipalities. The contract would have them pay $11.75 per month per household to Allied Waste. Waste Management, the company that owns Cedar Ridge Landfill, already serves Cornersville and Chapel Hill. Lewisburg's garbage trucks unload at Cedar Ridge.

Waste Management has asked the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for permission to expand Cedar Ridge Landfill. TDEC Commissioner Jim Fyke has declined to issue a "draft permit" and is now considering hundreds of letters sent during the latest round of public comment. If permission is denied, the landfill could run out of space to bury trash.

The county has a responsibility to have a trash disposal plan. Waste Management has been operating the county's convenience centers. If the expansion is denied, the county must do something because Waste Management's operation of convenience centers would stop.

The municipalities "are going into it (with Allied Waste) because they have to," Thomas said of the prospective contractual agreement. "But in the next five years, we may be in a position to come together."

Thomas spoke of these circumstances Monday night at the close of a non-voting workshop between county commissioners and Lewisburg's City Council.

"We want to be seen as working together with you," Mayor Barbara Woods said to open the public dialog with Marshall County on what to do if the state refuses to permit expansion of the landfill just west of town.

Knowing that the county "is no where near" the point of being able to contract with a vendor like Allied, Woods officially reported to the commission that the cities have a bid from Allied which has guaranteed the price for 90 days.

At one point, she said, the city considered establishing its own transfer station, but now city officials are considering the opportunity to privatize trash collection services.

Given the terms of the guaranteed price from Allied Waste, the mayor told county commissioners, "We want to work with you, but the cities may have to act."

There were about 45 days left in the 90-day guarantee, Woods said.

City Manager Eddie Fuller said if cities sign with Allied, services may start July 1.

Councilman Quinn Stewart pointed out that Cornersville has voted to accept the offer from Allied Waste.

Allied Waste Area Municipal Services Manager Gerry Burke said the company is ready to provide trash collection services in the three municipalities.

"We're here as an option," Burke said. "We feel the county will benefit from us being here if the county decided to go with a curbside service" for trash collection.

No transfer station would be required, he said. Allied would use one in Giles County about nine miles from Cornersville.

Councilman Ronald McRady had been vocal during recent City Council meetings, asking for a joint session of the city council and the county commission so there could be a dialog on a mutual problem.

The deadline to get a topic on the agenda for this month's commission meeting passed the day before councilmen agreed to go to a county meeting, so the consultation was not during the commission's voting session. No votes could be taken at the workshop of the county commission, but the officials exchanged views and information.

"We wanted to let you know so you aren't left out in the cold," Woods told commissioners.

Also that night, former County Commissioner Tom Sumners who's running for another term, asked if anybody knew when TDEC's commissioner would issue a decision on the expansion request.

A reply came from an unidentified voice across the room: "Closer to the election."

County commissioners face voters on Aug. 5. State leaders' election is in November.