Contract negotiations for the Matlock Bend Landfill put on hold pending a corporate acquisition will now resume.
Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission authorized board chairwoman Kelly Littleton-Brewster and attorney Kevin Stevens to resume talks in a 6-1 vote last month. Board member Pat Hunter was the lone opposing vote.
Prior to the vote, Hunter motioned to hire a contract attorney to study the issues and negotiate on behalf of the commission, but no one provided a second. She also motioned to have the negotiations occur in government buildings in Loudon County, but that motion died for lack of a second.
Previous negotiations had been with landfill operator Santek Waste Services. The board had been negotiating for five years when it learned Santek was being acquired by Republic Services.
“When our board found out they were in the middle of a sale with Republic, we put a stop to any negotiations with Santek,” Littleton-Brewster said.
The board was concerned about establishing an agreement with Santek while not knowing if Republic would follow the terms.
Littleton-Brewster said the board had some good negotiation points that Santek had agreed to before the sale.
“We didn’t know what would happen,” she said. “We wanted to see what Republic would offer us.”
Santek was acquired earlier this year following U.S. Department of Justice approval.
“We’re just looking at what Republic can offer us,” Littleton-Brewster said.
“We’re open to listen,” Ben Johnston, Republic spokesman, added.
Avoid deficit, keep fees low
The current contract ends in 2027. Negotiations could extend the contract through 2038, including a two-year closure period.
One of the goals of negotiations is to ensure that the three landfill stakeholders — Loudon, Loudon County and Lenoir City — don’t have a deficit when the landfill hits capacity, Littleton-Brewster said. Closing the landfill today would cost Republic and stakeholders millions.
Another negotiating point is to keep tipping fees — the cost per ton for trash dumped at the landfill — at a low rate for stakeholders.
Negotiators will also try to keep out as much out-of-county waste as possible.
“If you continually take in out-of-county waste, it’s going to fill up that much faster,” Littleton-Brewster said.
The landfill is primarily for Loudon County residents and businesses, but there is some out-of-county waste disposed of at the landfill by contractors.
There is also a question about closing landfill cells. The contractor is supposed to have an estimated time for closing cells as they fill up, Littleton-Brewster said. This is a new phased closure requirement from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Littleton-Brewster said some of the cells at the landfill have been open for several years, but Santek did not close any cells while it operated the landfill. She thinks Republic should close some cells. The phased closure could have some cells closing in 2025, some in 2034 and some in 2036. There is land available for the landfill to expand.
She said she and Stevens will bring negotiating points back to the board for consideration as discussions continue.
“We have the authority to approve or disapprove any extension,” Littleton-Brewster said. “... Our goal is to do those things that our stakeholders want and to make sure all our landfill needs are met. We work very hard to make sure everything is met as far as what our stakeholders want.”