The city of Loudon will begin enforcing an existing law that requires contractors who trim trees to dispose of the resulting debris.
The city picks up tree limbs and brush from homeowners and accepts the expense of disposing those items, but chipping brush left by contractors is costing the city money, Bill Fagg, public works director, said.
Residents will receive notice of the change in December utility bills. Homeowners who trim tree limbs themselves will still be able to place that trash at the edge of property for free pickup and disposal.
Lynn Mills, Loudon city manager, pointed to the Loudon Municipal Code, Section 17-107, which states: "In no case will it be the responsibility of the city sanitation department to collect refuse resulting from construction, demolition, repairs of buildings, structures or appurtenances and private tree businesses. The property owner/contractor, or the person having same in charge, shall be responsible for disposal of such refuse."
This part of the code has not been enforced in many years, Mills said.
Fagg said the problem is more with tree trimmers than building contractors.
"We don't have a big problem with building contractors," he said. "Word got out 10 years ago. We've been working with them on this issue for a long time.
"Currently, the public works department is picking up limbs," Fagg said. "We should continue to pick up brush when homeowners do the work, but when they hire a tree trimmer and he drags it to the road and we go to the expense ..."
Fagg calculated that brush chipping and grinding done by contractors totaled 1,446 man hours and put 1,293 hours on the department's chipper. "I figured, if you use the rental rate, that is $48,700 a year," he said, adding that the labor would run $45,000.
The issue was discussed at a recent Loudon City Council workshop.
"How do you keep this from being a 'he said, she said' thing?" Mayor Judy Keller asked. "If we decide to do this, this council is going to have to have a united front."
Councilman Lynn Millsaps said the solution is simple. "If it is part of the code, we ought to enforce it," he said.
Fagg said he feared brush would begin to accumulate in alleys and anywhere it could be thrown if residents were not able to get it to the landfill. When it came to building materials, he said his policy was to allow one load of material to be picked up at a residence free of charge each year, and thereafter the resident would be charged $150 per load. He said that approach has worked well.
The ordinance is already in effect, so the only issue for council is to approve the expenditure of $500 to send out notices through Loudon Utilities Board.
Mills said enforcement would not save a tremendous amount of money, but it would free workers to perform other tasks and extend the life of the city's equipment.