BY SARAH GREGORY
Formal action on a contract that would put most operations of the Greeneville-Greene County Transfer Station and Demolition Landfill in the hands of an outside company until at least 2019 was not taken by the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen as anticipated Thursday -- but it may come soon.
Greene County's governing body must also take action on the agreement for it to go into effect, but when that may happen is not yet known.
If the agreement is approved by both bodies and goes into effect, there will be no changes that will impact citizens' ability to dispose of refuse at the landfill, but tipping fees will see yearly increases.
CONTRACT NOT COMPLETE
On Thursday morning, the Greeneville board met in special called session, but the contract with Delaware-based Waste Industries was not completed as expected when the meeting was scheduled last week.
City Administrator Todd Smith asked the board to consider authorizing Mayor W.T. Daniels to sign the contract after it is completed, but because the board had not yet had an opportunity to review the actual document, aldermen declined to take formal action.
Smith said the agreement is "98 to 99 percent complete" and only minor revisions by Ron Woods, the Town's attorney, are necessary.
Daniels said, however, that he would prefer the aldermen have an opportunity to read the agreement and discuss concerns in public before he adds his signature.
Alderman Sarah E.T. Webster -- chairman of the Greeneville-Greene County Regional Solid Waste Planning Board for a number of years -- in particular expressed concern about voting on a contract that the board had not yet reviewed.
After several minutes of discussion, the board agreed that no action should be taken.
"Once we have the contract, then we'll call a meeting and we'll take it from there," Daniels said, adding that the board would be given copies of the contract to review so that any questions could be addressed.
IN WORKS FOR MONTHS
"This has been on the table for quite some time," Daniels said.
A number of months ago, Smith added, the Greeneville-Greene County Regional Solid Waste Planning Board, authorized the Town and county to seek a third-party to handle the operations.
A formal process that included advertisements requesting third-party proposals was undertaken, resulting in the selection of Waste Industries for contract negotiations, Smith said.
The contract is being reviewed by attorneys for both Greeneville and Greene County. Once they are done, the governing bodies can vote on the agreement, Daniels said.
"It's still a city-county agreement. That's not going to go away at all," he added.
Aldermen Darrell Bryan and Buddy Hawk observed that action on the agreement by the Greene County Commission may take some time because the county only passed its fiscal year 2014 budget on Friday.
'DWINDLING' FUND BALANCE
The "bottom line" motivating the decision to seek such an operating agreement, Smith said, is the estimated $300,000 to $500,000 from the solid waste fund balance shared by the city and county that has been spent each year for a number of years to operate the facility.
"That burden that we've been seeing year after year of the fund balance dwindling down stops and the fund balance is now protected through this contract," Smith said, adding that aspect was "the most significant part" of the agreement.
Currently, that fund balance holds just over $2 million, according to Town Recorder Carol Susong.
"Just a few years ago it was over $6 million, almost $7 million. That just shows how much it's gone down," Bryan added.
MAJOR POINTS OUTLINED
Even though aldermen did not have a copy of the full contract to review, Smith prepared a memorandum outlining major elements of the negotiated agreement, which would be in effect until November 2019 if approved.
According to that memo, under the contract, Waste Industries would act as the operator of the transfer station and landfill, oversee landfill monitoring, and haul waste from the transfer station to the Morristown landfill.
The local landfill is only for demolition and construction waste, which is considered class IV waste.
Class I waste -- such as domestic, commercial, municipal, bulky, landscaping, and farming waste -- is not handled at the Greeneville-Greene County landfill. Instead, it is transferred to a Class I facility in Morristown.
"We're not leasing the land to them to do with as they please. They're simply operating the landfill on our behalf," Smith said. "We kind of look at this as an operations or management contract and not a full lease of the entire facility."
Under the agreement, Greeneville and Greene County would pay for installation of a new concrete tipping floor at a cost not to exceed a total of $94,500.
WEIGHING, BILLING REMAIN LOCAL
All employees at the transfer station and landfill will be under Waste Industries with the exception of a scales operator, the memo says.
The way the scale house and billing process for the facility is handled will not change and there will still be a landfill fund, Smith said.
"We will still be in charge of the scale house," Daniels reiterated. "That's basically the nucleus of the billing, so we're not going to lose that. That will stay as it is today. We'll have our own person there."
Waste Industries Government Municipal Contract Manager David Duke was present to answer questions.
"We prefer that you operate the scale house and you control the billing," Duke said.
"We feel there needs to be a very significant separation between us as your contractor and you billing those who utilize your facility," he said. "It just eliminates anyone ever questioning about how the finances are handled or anything else. We do this with most transfer station operating agreements."
TIPPING FEES INCREASE
Tipping fees for both class I and class IV materials will see yearly increases if the new agreement is approved.
Fees for Class I material will start at $17.09 and increase at 2.5 percent per year.
For class IV material, tipping fees will start at $14.75 and also increase at 2.5 percent per year.
A gate fee of at least $22 will also be charged, according to the memo.
The difference between the gate fee and Waste Industries fee will go back into the landfill operating fund shared by the city and county.
Smith said that tipping fee increases should have been instituted in past years so as to not deplete the fund balance.
It was observed by Bryan, Webster, and Daniels, however, that attempts at increasing those fees in years past had been met with adamant, routine opposition from members of the Solid Waste Planning Board.
The negotiated contract also contains an agreement to lease existing equipment at the facility to Waste Industries.
The company will pay a monthly lease of $6,000 as long as the equipment is usable. After that, Waste Industries will supply all necessary equipment.
If the agreement is approved, Smith said his recommendation will be that the $6,000 monthly lease payments go back to the landfill fund to address capital needs.
Although it is not yet known when the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen or Greene County Commission will sign-off on the agreement, the company is ready to get to work, Duke said.
When asked by Public Works Director Brad Peters, Duke said he estimated it would take 30 to 40 days to transition to Waste Industries' operation of the transfer station and landfill.
"We may be a little bit better than that," Duke said, but he gave the longer estimate to provide the company enough time to evaluate how many employees would be needed.
As discussions ended, the board agreed to take the issue back into consideration once the contract is complete.
Aldermen acknowledged that they may be forced to wait as the Greene County Commission has not yet taken up the issue, but the city board hopes to move forward on the agreement soon.
"The sooner we get this contract signed, the sooner we start saving money," Smith said.