Cedar Ridge expansion remains problematic

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Money paid by Waste Management to Marshall County for host fees to bury garbage here has dropped by more than half since the county budget year that ended a year ago.

The revenue comparison is in the county's Solid Waste Department budget proposed for the fiscal year starting this summer for 2010-11. It's recommended by the four county commissioners voting at the most recent Solid Waste Committee meeting.

Several years ago, Waste Management reported its host fees to Marshall County were nearly $500,000. Now, because there's no final decision from the state on whether Cedar Ridge Landfill may expand, trash deliveries have been diverted, garbage burial has been greatly reduced to conserve space, and so revenue from host fees is down.

"We're going to have to make it on our own," County Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas said, "based on all appearances of the political climate."

Jim Fyke, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, decided with professionals in TDEC that, for environmental reasons, Cedar Ridge shouldn't be expanded. Waste Management is appealing that to the state Solid Waste Disposal Control Board. Regardless of the board's decision, all parties in the dispute expect an appeal to be filed in civil court.

Thomas' theory on what's going to happen is that "Waste Management might stop all deliveries (to Cedar Ridge) until the company knows" the results of the appeal. Although, during that time, the landfill just west of Lewisburg would continue to accept deliveries from the convenience centers in Marshall County. That's in accordance with the contract the company has with the county.

So, the longer the process, the more space Waste Management must conserve and that seems to be reflected in the budget Thomas presented to the county's Solid Waste Committee.

County budgets are audited annually, and the latest audit shows the department received $157,720 in host fees from Waste Management during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009. In a June 16 report based on nine months of records and three months of estimates, Thomas projected that the department would receive $83,712 in host fees for the fiscal year just ended. Now, he projects for the fiscal year that just started -- one that ends June 30, 2011, the county's revenues from host fees will be $65,000.

When comparing the audited revenue figure from 2008-09 to the anticipated host fee revenue for 2010-11, the decline is nearly 59 percent.

When the department's total budget for all revenue during those two years are compared -- 2008-09 to 2010-11 -- the decline isn't as great. The audited 2008-09 budget totaled $720,832 and now $376,609 is the projected revenue side of the solid waste budget in 2010-11. That decline is almost 48 percent.

Recycling of cardboard has become the largest source of revenue for the department -- in contrast to tipping fees that had been the biggest revenue source.

"Some of it is probably dumb luck and grace," Thomas told the Solid Waste Committee members late last month when the panel met in the Courthouse Annex.

Cardboard has brought $140 per ton when "most estimates were at about $80 per ton" for cardboard, he said.

The increase in revenue from recycling cardboard went from $44,057 in 2008-09 to an estimated $118,387 in 2009-10, Thomas' budget shows. His budget for the fiscal year just started reflects a conservative anticipation of revenue from cardboard at $110,000.

Recycling metal is anticipated as the third highest source of revenue for the department during the next 12 months. It's estimated at $60,000 for the year just started.

"The baler and sort line are paying off," Thomas said of equipment the county purchased a few years ago.

It's been manned by trusties from the county jail and young adults hired through the summer youth employment program.

Thomas has also hired a full-time employee last month "to keep us with sufficient staff until we know what's going to happen with the landfill," the director said.

"We're sorting 80 percent of what we receive," he continued, referring to the on-going collection of recyclable materials left at curbside by residents of Lewisburg and what comes in from recycling bins at convenience centers and elsewhere such as a set behind the Walgreen pharmacy at Nashville Highway and Ellington Parkway.

The other 20 percent is trucked to Nashville. The county has a contract with a recycling company there. It sorts what it receives, sells it on the recycling market, keeps a share and pays the county a portion of that.

The contract between Marshall County and Waste Management calls for the host fee payments, but what the county receives is split in half with one half being paid by the county to the landfill company for its operation of the county convenience centers.

Meanwhile, the Solid Waste Committee has a resolution ready to file for consideration by the county commission. It's for an annual solid waste fee to be imposed on all households in the county not served by a municipality's trash collection service. All four municipalities in Marshall County have hired a private company to provide residents with trash collection service.