The McNairy County solid waste committee met Aug. 3 to discuss several issues.
The first issue covered at the meeting concerned testing wells located on landfill property.
The wells are used to test for any materials leeching from the landfill site into the ground water.
There are four other wells on the property that are tested every six months.
The committee was asked to consider abandoning these wells due to their not being needed.
Well abandonment involves filling the wells with grout so that they are permanently sealed.
Wilson Well Co. quoted $1,450 to seal the wells. The other quote was from Tioga for $3,500.
After much discussion, the committee voted unanimously to go with Wilson Well Co. for the work.
The next issue up for discussion was the possibility of purchasing land to expand the landfill.
The committee discussed the landfill and the area that it currently utilizes.
No one on the committee voiced the need for more property at the site.
After some discussion, Brad Hunt motioned to deny the purchase of any additional land for the landfill.
The motion was seconded and passed unanimously.
The final discussion of the night was on a possible rate increase on garbage bills for the citizens of McNairy County.
Waste Connections currently charges $8.67 per month for 6,800 customers.
According to the numbers provided by McNairy County, Solid Waste it takes $13.13 to fund the department if it is at 100% collection rate.
According to the department, at the current collection rate of about 70.5%, it would take $18.60 per month to fund the office.
In order to fund the entire operation of solid waste, recycling and landfill, the county would need to collect $21.16 per month to break even.
Waste Connections has had a price increase every year for the past five years.
Based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), this year’s rate increase on the county from Waste Connections will be 2.6%.
The question of an accurate house count was brought up by commissioner Phillip Hollingsworth.
“We have started our own house count,” Steve Beavers, Director of Solid Waste, stated. “We have a list from Brandon Moore’s office of 6,700 structures and 1,900 mobile homes.”
“None of those have addresses,” Beavers said. “We have to go look them up at the property site and fill in addresses to see if we have them in the system. Right now, we have gone through over 200 so far one by one.”
The idea of trying to see if access to the 911 database of homes in the county was offered by McNairy County Sheriff Guy Buck.
It was then pointed out that several of the recent homes added to the house count did not have 911 addresses.
So far about 40 homes have been added to the house count using the current process in place.
The latest house count done in 2019 was 6,854 homes in McNairy County.
The county currently bills 7,100 citizens for garbage.
An average of only 4,800 people actually pay their bill, according to department records.
There was more discussion of how to get a more accurate count and how to get billed residents who are delinquent to pay for services.
Laws imposed by the state declare that is not legal for the county to refuse to pick up garbage at homes that are delinquent in their payments.
“I think the house count needs to come before the rate increase,” argued Hollingsworth. “I don’t see another way around it. I’m not going to vote for it; I don’t mind telling you. I don’t agree with it and I think it’s wrong.”
“The CPI increase has been voted on,” County Mayor Larry Smith clarified. “We are losing in solid waste every year annually. We are losing almost as much as the highway department gets in revenue in the county every year.”
“[We need to do] whatever we can do to fix that,” Smith continued. “In 10 years, we are going to lose almost $10 million.”
“I asked in March if we needed more help to try and step it up,” reminded Hollingsworth. “I got snubbed and then I got snubbed again. And I will tell you where I’m at. It’s time to deal with it face to face.”
“I don’t see how you can bill when you don’t know who your customers are,” Hollingsworth concluded.
26 people were sent letters from the department warning them that not paying their bill could result in the seizure of property.
Seven of these properties have reached the stage of being sued by the county.
“Out of the 26 properties we selected,” Beavers related. “We have had two people to contact us. One person paid and one person set up a payment plan to pay.”
The county can sell the properties to reimburse the lost money; however, the state will not allow for the department to get more than what is owed if the property sells.
According to the solid waste department, it could be a year or longer before money from property seizures would be collected.
Another suggestion brought to the floor by Jay Weatherford was the possibility of a $46.76 wheel tax to cover garbage for the county.
This would cover the cost of picking up garbage for the entire county and have the county break even.
The expense to the citizens would be less due to large number of vehicles in the county.
A convenience center was briefly discussed as an option but was quickly dismissed due to the fear that people would not take their garbage to the center themselves.
The only upside to a convenience center that was discussed was the fact that, if the county provided one, people not paying for garbage service would not have to be picked up.
Some commissioners feared that this concept could lead to a larger problem of people dumping their garbage down county roads and other places.
The next rate increase due to the current CPI of 2.6% will go into effect during the fourth quarter of 2021.
Beginning in October, this increase would require each McNairy County resident to pay $13.22 per month.
The solid waste department suggested a rate increase to $15 per month in order to help cover expenses.
Following some additional discussion, the group adjourned without passing a recommendation for an additional rate increase.