BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The transfer station at the Greeneville-Greene County Class III Landfill is expected to discontinue operations by the start of the coming fiscal year on July 1, following a vote on Monday by the Greeneville-Greene County Regional Solid Waste Planning Board.
There are nine employees at the transfer station that the town and the county will work to place within other departments to avoid the loss of jobs, the board agreed.
The board also noted that the change will not affect the landfill itself because of the need to maintain a disposal site for local industries.
County Mayor Alan Broyles proposed closing the transfer station in response to a cost-saving analysis he said he has undertaken over the past several months with Greene County Solid Waste Director Hubert Metcalfe, Greeneville Public Works Director Brad Peters and Greeneville Mayor W.T. Daniels.
"With the increased cost going up with our present transfer station, the county feels that we would be able to transfer our solid waste to TIDI Waste at a more convenient rate," Broyles explained.
Currently, the town, the county and the City of Tusculum haul household garbage to the transfer station (located on Old Stage Road) for a tipping fee cost of $36.64 per ton, $17.83 of which is designated for TIDI Waste to then haul the combined refuse to the company's landfill in Morristown.
OPERATING IN THE RED
With the town and county's joint Solid Waste Fund operating at an estimated $500,000-a-year deficit, it would take a $7.76 per ton increase in the tipping fees to begin to make the venture once again viable, Broyles noted.
The need to increase tipping fees in order for revenues to match expenses at the station has been a known fact for the past several years, but the board and mayors have not been able to reach a consensus about increasing such fees.
Broyles instead proposed that the county could purchase more roll-off trucks and compactors for the 17 convenience center sites at an estimated $960,000 cost in order to haul the household garbage directly to Morristown.
The county currently has 13 compactors, but would need one at each center, multiple compactors at the four largest centers, and backup compactors as well, Metcalfe reported.
Factoring in maintenance, fuel and the possibility of an extra employee would still leave a savings of between $11 to $13 per ton for the county, Broyles reported.
For Greeneville, Peters estimated that such savings would equate to $12,000 per month, or about $150,000 per year.
Broyles noted that Greeneville and Greene County's joint Solid Waste Fund has about $4 million available, only $1.4 million of which the state requires the board to maintain.
Therefore, he proposed that the county and Greeneville each use $1 million of the fund balance to cover the startup costs.
County Commissioner Robert Bird recommended that the county budget all projected future savings into a "locked" fund for the maintenance and replacement of the equipment the county will need.
While the mayors actually have the authority to make executive decisions related to solid waste management, Broyles requested the board's approval for closing the transfer station, noting that the two mayors always acted with the board's recommendation in the past.
While most members agreed to the need for a change, Chairperson Sarah Webster expressed hesitation.
"I personally am very fond of the transfer station. It may be needed," she said.
"We shouldn't give up what we've got with the understanding it may one day be needed."
She noted, however, that it is the county's decision to no longer utilize the transfer station and that action would automatically make it financially impossible for Greeneville to maintain the station.
Both the county and the city have a contract with TIDI Waste in Morristown. That contract has two years remaining, according to Webster.
At the end of that contract, a bidding process could further decrease solid waste disposal costs, Broyles said.
MAYOR DANIELS' SUPPORT
Greeneville Mayor W.T. Daniels also said he is in favor of closing the transfer station, although he noted there is a need for further study of the logistics and cost of the landfill.
"The one thing that I'm concerned about certainly is if we decide to shut the transfer station down, there's jobs to be considered there," he said.
City Administrator Todd Smith commented on the issue, noting that the fund has a $500,000 annual deficit and only $4 million remaining.
"Something has to happen," he said. "Something has to be done pretty quick."
While it is a "tough decison" when jobs are involved, he said, the board needs first to consider the 15,500 citizens of the town.
A motion by Bird to approve the mayors' going forward with the process leading to the closure of the station was unanimoulsy approved by the Solid Waste Board.
In other business, the board heard an annual report from Chris Craig, assistant executive director of the First Tennessee Development District.
Craig noted a long list of capital projects needs for the transfer station, which he said are very detailed this year because of the state's prohibiting grants for items that are not listed in the report.
Such needs included loaders, several trucks, a new roof, insulation and lighting for the maintenance building, a new floor at the transfer station, and new windows in several areas.
Craig also detailed the county's tonnage, which included 56,000 tons of Class Four waste and 43,000 tons of Class One waste.
Of this tonnage, 57 percent counted toward "real-time waste reduction," due to reclycling and other programs. Craig said this far exceeds the state's required 25 percent.
The board unanimously accepted this report.