Lenoir City Council held an open discussion June 13 on a contract extension with Republic Services for Matlock Bend Landfill.
The item was added to the meeting’s agenda so residents from the city and surrounding community could voice concerns.
“Considering we are a single region, and we are only supposed to take garbage from Loudon County, yes I’m concerned that we shouldn’t be taking any,” Pat Hunter, a city resident and member of the Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission, which is responsible for the contract, said. “It hasn’t benefited us with all the years we have been taking out-of-county garbage. So you know if it was supposed to be a deal maker, it didn’t make financial sense to us yet.”
The current contract does not expire until 2027, but some argue the agreement does not establish the proper time to close parts of the landfill.
“Right now we are left in an ambiguous situation because the contract is not clear about what constitutes time to close,” Art Stewart said. “Santak could at this point keep opening up new cells and leaving the others unclosed and that maintains a high liability.”
The new contract would go through 2038 and add guidelines to close cells, limit the height of the landfill and reduce local liability at closure and post-closure.
“If we continue the current contract as is we incur about a $13 million liability at the end of that for closure and post-closure costs. That’s huge and that is unacceptable,” Stewart said. “The way we’ve structured this amendment, if we precede with it, we’re anticipating that is problem solved, and what we end up with is between a $5 to 6 million on the positive side. So we completely shift the balance of economics on this.”
Some residents are concerned about long-term costs not accounting for inflation, an increased tipping fee and a lack of input from residents.
“I’m also very concerned we are not seeking input from residents that live nearby, especially thriving communities such as Tennessee National,” Hunter said. “We haven’t heard from them, and I think it’s important that if we’re going to extend it for 11 years that they have input because they have a financial investment and we should hear from them.”
Hunter and others also raised concerns about taking in trash from outside areas. The renewal only allows for trash to be imported 47 miles from the site. A distribution site falls under this radius, and some worry the trash will be imported under a technicality.
“It’s about accountability to the taxpayers and, as far as I’m concerned, this sounds good but it hasn’t met the litmus test,” Hunter said. “It hasn’t been reviewed by a third party. We haven’t checked for compliance of the landfill or the financial to see whether the rubber meets the road.”
Council decided to move forward with the extension, with Mayor Tony Aikens sending a letter of concerns about issues raised to LCSWDC.
“There is some concerns, but I do believe that we’ve talked about it long enough,” Aikens said. “The solid waste commission, they need to make a decision and move forward. Then we’ll find out whether those decisions was a good decision in a few years or not. But doing nothing is not the answer.”
In other business, council:
• Approved the rezoning of property on the corner of Kingston Street and Fifth Avenue from residential to C-2 central business.
A laundromat at the site has recently been bought by new owners. The zoning problem was discovered when paperwork was filed.
“Older buildings in town don’t always have the correct zoning,” Beth Collins, Lenoir City planner, said. “This is just correcting that zoning.”
The zoning allows for small businesses such as laundromats and barber shops.
• Approved on first reading an ordinance to forbid those elected to any city office from holding another publicly elected office without first resigning from their elected office.
“In a review of our current ordinances, (we) saw a hole there,” Amber Scott Kelso, city administer, said. “It’s basically a conflict of interest ordinance to clarify (and) make sure we don’t have any people that could be involved in any type of conflict of interest in different offices.”
Council approved the ordinance Monday at a called meeting.
• Approved a memorandum of understanding between the Loudon County Emergency Communications District, Loudon and Lenoir City.
• Approve for Aikens to sign a quit claim deed to Gwenda Williams for property on H Street and West Seventh Avenue.