Loudon City Council discussed at Monday’s workshop contract amendment negotiations between Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission and Santek Waste Services and whether a city-run landfill is a viable option after the solid waste board asked stakeholders for their opinions.
The proposed amendment was brought before Loudon City Council, Lenoir City Council and Loudon County Commission in a joint workshop Sept. 29 where members from each entity could learn about the proposed changes. Each entity was asked to discuss the amendment and bring its thoughts back to the board so it could vote on the terms.
Councilwoman Tammi Bivens, who serves on the solid waste board, will look to council for support when she votes yes or no at the next board meeting.
“The old contract left a lot of the debt responsibility to the county and the stakeholders, the county being the majority of it because they have to sign off on that debt each year,” Bivens said. “This one created some better options. There was a lot of give and a lot of take. Santek did give quite a bit. The reason for the push back on it the possibility of Santek is being purchased — or (Republic Services) is purchasing the stock of Santek. It’ll be a subsidiary owned by Republic. That changed a lot of the mindset of the talks for a while.”
Ty Ross, Loudon city manager, during the stakeholder meeting suggested the board decline the amendment which would extend Santek’s contract and allow the city take over the landfill.
“We did not have this option of the city government running the landfill for quite a while,” Bivens said. “It is something that was brought up, and it is on the table as an option. My recommendation would be to see if it passes at the meeting before we spend the money on a feasibility study for it. The city is one of six people on that board. I would like to see if it’s going to pass before we do a feasibility study.”
Councilman Tim Brewster thinks Loudon should run the landfill because of how profitable a business it can be. He sees a contract extension as a missed opportunity.
“If we did take it over, we have the resources and we hired — there’s four people working down there every day, four people,” Brewster said. “We’ve got an engineer for public works now that knows landfills. Why not look into taking this landfill? And Loudon could clear at least $2.5 million a year. That’s money we need. That’s money we’re throwing away literally. I encourage this board to fight this tooth and nail.”
Bivens told council the solid waste board doesn’t actually need its approval to go through with the amendment. The board simply wanted to know the stakeholders were supportive of its actions. Bivens has been directly involved with negotiations and was happy with the amendment until she learned of Republic’s involvement.
“I thought that it went a very long way as far as financially it took the debt assurance off of the county, our bank account looks a lot better when the time frame is up,” Bivens said. “As far as that goes, there were no other options on the table, and Republic wasn’t in the picture at that time. When Republic came in, that made us all a little weary of the situation. There is something to be said for a company doing it. They’re taking the liability off of the entities. There is a comfort in that. But they don’t have your best interest in heart. … The amendment’s not bad. You hate the extension, but honestly we’re going to be staying with Santek without the extension. We were going to be left owing a lot of money. It was going to be another Poplar Springs (Landfill).”
Bivens is not certain when a vote will be held to approve the amendment. She said it has been on the agenda and eligible for a vote every meeting for years.
Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission met Tuesday after News-Herald presstime.