A newly sworn Loudon County Commission didn’t waste any time fulfilling a vow to take action on concerns with the Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission.
At a Sept. 6 meeting, commissioners voted 8-2 to remove several members from the waste panel and replace them with fellow commissioners. The commission also filled recently vacated seats with county commissioners.
Within days the commission’s actions led to additional changes, including the resignation of the LCSWDC attorney.
Commissioner Adam Waller opened discussion by saying he thought there were serious problems with the recently amended contract with Republic Services to manage the Matlock Bend Landfill.
“It’s probably the worst contract ever,” Waller said.
Commissioner Van Shaver concurred some action needed to be taken, seconding Waller’s motions to remove and replace members of the LCSWDC.
Within the last month, Kelly Littleton-Brewster, LCSWDC chairwoman and a county commissioner, and Terry Small, a representative from Greenback, tendered their resignations following criticism from commission over the Republic contract and other issues. Both voted to approve the Republic contract amendment.
Commission first voted 8-2 to remove Steve Field and Larry Jameson, who represented the county on the LCSWDC. Both voted to approve the Republic contract amendment.
Appointed in 1999, Field was the longest-serving member. Jameson was an eight-year veteran. Neither was available for comment.
Commission then voted 8-2 to appoint commissioners Adam Waller, Chase Randolph, Henry Cullen and Bill Satterfield to fill the open seats.
County appointee Pat Hunter, who cast the only vote against the Republic contract amendment, remains on the waste commission. She was elected chairwoman following Littleton-Brewster’s resignation.
Hunter said after the meeting that she would remain on the panel to serve the community.
“County commission’s actions will put the LCSWDC in synch with the needs of the community and more accountable to the taxpayers,” Hunter said.
Tammi Bivens, representing Loudon, remains. Art Stewart, the appointee for Lenoir City, also resigned.
Bivens and Stewart voted to approve the Republic contract amendment. Commissioners didn’t have the authority to remove members appointed by the cities.
Bivens was not at the meeting. She said later that as an appointee of Loudon she intended to fulfill her commitment.
“I am saddened by the losses that our board has taken,” Bivens said. “We lost valuable and educated commissioners. I hope that whoever ends up with the seats for the remainder of the term will be dedicated to learning and will understand the importance that this commission has.”
Before the vote, County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw asked commissioners if they were sure they had the authority to remove county appointees.
Shaver replied that, according to common law, the power to remove is implicit with the power to appoint.
Commissioners Bill Geames and Gary Whitfield, who voted against the motions to remove county appointees and the motion to replace them with county commissioners, questioned Bradshaw about whether the county attorney had issued an opinion of the issue.
Bradshaw said he had requested but not received an opinion from Bob Bowman, county attorney.
Whitfield and Geames said after the vote they wanted to see an opinion in writing from the county attorney affirming the power of the commission to remove LCSWDC members before they voted to take such actions.
“I’d rather let the attorneys sort it out,” Whitfield said.
During discussion before the vote, Waller and Shaver said the appointment of county commissioners was necessary to gain a five-vote majority that would allow them to take action on issues they had with the contract. They indicated the appointments of commissioners was a temporary move.
Among the names mentioned during the meeting by Bradshaw as possible appointees was Gary Busch, a former contract negotiator with experience in waste and scrap industries.
Hunter said she received notice Sept. 7 that LCSWDC Attorney Kevin Stevens had resigned. Stevens, who works for Knoxville law firm Kennerly, Montgomery & Finley P.C., said the LCSWDC was created by an intergovernmental agreement as an independent body free from political influence to jointly represent the interests of Loudon County, Loudon and Lenoir City.
“The current actions of the Loudon County Commission are not in line with this mission,” Steven’s resignation letter said. “I can no longer in good conscience continue to serve LCSWDC as legal counsel in light of this fundamental change from the purpose for which it was created.”
Shaver said after the meeting his goal was to put in place commissioners who can help deal with issues in the contract not favorable to the county.
“I just hope now we have a commission that can get a better deal for the stakeholders,” he said.