The Lawrence County Commission must continue to work toward a solution to the county’s solid waste issues, as a resolution to award the contract for the disposal of solid waste from the local transfer station failed during a recent commission meeting.
Commissioners met in regular session Jan. 30 with the main discussion encompassing the county’s solid waste woes.
While the commission voted to increase the local solid waste fee from $54 to $102 in a Dec. 28 special session, that vote was to address just one of the many facets of the solid waste dilemma. The increase had to be made in order to cover drastic increases in the cost of hauling garbage from the transfer station, to a dump in Mississippi.
The county had contracted with Waste Connections of Mississippi in 2013 to haul solid waste at a cost of $32 per ton. That was a five-year contract with an additional five-year option.
When the contract expired last year, leaders began seeking solutions. Bids were solicited and two bid submissions received. The bids received were from Waste Services of N.E. Mississippi, Inc., for $62 per ton and United Waste Management for $62.62 per ton.
The resolution on the agenda last week was to contract with the low bidder, Waste Services of N.E. Mississippi, Inc. With all 18 commissioners present, 10 voted “no,” with seven voting to approve and one passing.
Another discussion arose when commissioners opted to amend three resolutions seeking matching funds for grants that have been awarded to local volunteer fire departments, and send them back to the Emergency Services and Budget Committees. Those three resolutions included:
- Matching funds for a FEMA grant received by the Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department for the purchase of firefighting equipment. The grant funds of $49,952.38 required a five-percent match of $2,497.62.
- Matching funds for a FEMA grant received by the Crossroads Fire Department Volunteer Fire Department for the purchase of a new fire truck. The grant funds of $377,142.85 require a five-percent match of $18,857.
- Matching funds for a Department of Economic and Community Development Grant received by the City of Ethridge for the Ethridge Volunteer Fire Department, for the purchase of a new fire truck. The grant funds of $419,883 require matching funds of $74,117, for a total of $494,000.
Commissioner Travis Cauwels pointed out, “There were some questions raised during the budget committee meeting…There is no set, kind of standard that we follow as to who gets what, how much is here and there given out. Is this something that could hold off for a couple of months until we get a set of standards before our next meeting? I’d just like to see the Emergency Committee set some kind of guidelines as to how we handle these from here on out.”
Commissioner Phillip Heatherly agreed, saying, “I really appreciate our volunteer firemen…but we have to set some kind of guidelines…If we don’t have some kind of guidelines, then our budget numbers are out the window.”
Commissioner Randy Brewer expressed a different opinion. He asked, “Folks, are we going to legislate ourselves into a position of turning down these grants?…This doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Once the decision was made to send the resolutions back to the committees, commissioners discussed the possibility of quickly setting guidelines, then holding a special session in March, if necessary, to again address the fire department resolutions.
In other business, the commission:
- Approved amendments to the 2022-23 Lawrence County budget, as amended.
- Elected representatives to the Agricultural Extension Committee, including Denny Gillespie, C.A. Hartsfield and Kathy Jones, who were elected for a two-year term.
- Approved a resolution to approve the Lawrence County road list.
- Approved Charlie Holt as the delinquent tax attorney.
- Authorized a grant application to the Tennessee Housing Development Agency for HOME grant funds in the amount of $500,000.
- Approved a revised transportation fee schedule for Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services.
- Authorized the acceptance of a recycling grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for the purchase of recycling equipment that includes eight four-yard self-dumping hoppers. The grant sum is $22,848. It requires a 30 percent match on the part of the county, or $9,792.
- Approved a resolution to encourage Lawrence County Fire and Rescue to make application for a Federal Emergency Management Agency Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant. The 100 percent grant would pay the salary for three full-time employee positions for three years. The employees would be responsible for office and paperwork, while also responding to county calls. Once the grant expired, county leaders would decide whether to continue to fund the positions.
- Approved an interlocal agreement between the county and the City of Lawrenceburg for the sharing of certain employee expenses at the Lawrence County Transfer Station. The agreement approved changes the former agreement. The city and county will share the cost of salary and benefits for the shared employee serving as the City’s Sanitation Department Manager and the Director of Lawrence County Solid Waste, with the salary and benefits totaling $94,378.07. It also provides for an administrative assistant with salary and benefits totaling $34,517.
- Accepted a grant from the Tennessee Department of Health for the construction of a new 8,000 square foot Lawrence County Health Department building and other improvements to the existing facility. The grant is for the amount of $3,617,700, with Lawrence County’s portion to be $1,205,900.
- Approved the purchase of a trash compacting truck to establish a Mobile Convenience Center for county residents to dispose of household waste and recyclables. The cost of the 11 yard compacting truck is not to exceed $181,100.
- Approved a resolution to request that the General Assembly amend Tennessee Codes Annotated in order to authorize the Lawrence County Commission to increase the local county mineral severance tax. The General Assembly had legislated that a tax of not more than 15 cents per ton be charged on sand, gravel, sandstone, chert and limestone severed from the ground. Noting the county’s growth and the fact that the tax has not been increased in 40 years, the county commission is urging legislators to allow exemptions for counties with populations of between 44,000 and 44,200 so that they may increase the tax to 45 cents per ton.