Trash talking at county meeting

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James Morris throws his trash into the dumpster at the Chester County Solid Waste Center. (photo by Kendall Patterson)

By Kendall Patterson

The Chester County Commission met Tuesday, July 7 in order to approve a multitude of topics on the agenda. Topics included the approval of: the adoption of a resolution for the Henderson West Main Street Hotel plan, budget amendments for all funds, a resolution for charitable contributions for 2020; fixing the tax rate in Chester County; the school, highway, library, technology school and the county general budgets; drug fund, general debt service budget and other budgets. There will also be the resolution for funding the volunteer fire departments for 2020-21 and the resolution for making appropriations for various funds, departments, institutions, offices and agencies in Chester County.
The most important item that was on the agenda was the approval for the resolution for funding of the Solid Waste Department.
The county mayor and commissioners will meet to discuss how to fund increasing solid waste costs.
One of the options, as Solid Waste Recycling Coordinator and Executive Director Amber Greene stated is “a proposal to add a solid waste fee of $1.85 per week ($96 per year) for residents, businesses and factories — everyone who creates trash.”
This proposed fee from the county is totally separate from the city and will affect everyone who lives in Chester County.
The City of Henderson has partnered with Chester County’s West Tennessee Recycling Hub to provide city residents with blue carts obtained with grant money. The city collects the carts and delivers recycling to the West Tennessee Recycling Hub. The goal of the program is to eliminate the amount of trash that city residents are adding to landfills.
Having the blue carts has made it more convenient for Henderson businesses and residents to recycle and has increased their recycling totals by 50 percent. More than 36 percent of Henderson’s residents participate in curbside recycling, and the city’s trash has decreased by more than 100 tons/200,000 pounds during the past three years. Keeping that trash out of a landfill saves money and resources.
Chester County Mayor Barry Hutcherson explained the other actions the county can take in order to fund Solid Waste.
He said that the county can either raise property taxes or have people pay as they dump off their trash.
Greene explained why Chester County’s trash costs money.
“Chester County does not operate a landfill. Chester County operates five convenience centers to accept residents’ trash. At one time, Tennessee had 159 active landfills. As they have been filled, they have been closed. Currently there are only 35 active landfills in our state. Chester County keeps the budget as a priority when contracting landfill services. Since 2010, Chester County has paid more than $1.9 million to bury trash in a landfill. The landfill charges tipping and hauling fees to bury trash, and those fees that the county pays increase every year,” Greene said.
So one may ask, “Why do we need money for landfilling trash?”
Greene says: Sales tax, hotel and motel tax, beer/alcohol/beverage tax, TVA tax and cable tax help fund solid waste. Also, in the past, Chester County used rent from the nursing home and some proceeds from its sale to offset landfill costs; the last of that allocated money will be spent by next summer.
In July 2021, without additional funds being added, the county budget will not have enough funds to pay increasing landfill costs for burying Chester County’s trash.
Hutcherson said whatever decision is made, it has to be approved soon.
“We just got to start working on it,” he said. “If we do a Solid Waste fee, we have to do a Private Act by the county. We got to send it into the state and the legislature don’t come back until January or February. We have to have it all proposed or decided what we’re gonna do.”
He said the funds can last up until the spring or summer of 2021, but if a disaster was to come like Covid-19 it would be a bad situation.
Greene explained how yes, grants have been received for recycling purposes for the county, but they do not apply toward landfilling trash.
According to Greene, Chester County is not the only county dealing with the issue.
“As landfill space has become more limited and the amount of trash has increased, this has become a nationwide issue. We have been fortunate to have been able to wait until now to deal with decisions about additional funding. Currently other Tennessee counties also are considering how to address this issue. The Chester County Solid Waste team is involved with other professionals and organizations in the country who work in this field. They have been monitoring how they are handling these needs and looking for best practices,” she said.
Greene encourages residents to visit the Chester County Solid Waste Center and the West Tennessee Recycling Hub on Talley Store Road in Henderson to tour the facilities and understand how they work. She even asks to “decrease the amount of trash that you, your family, and your business create by reducing waste, reusing items, and recycling. Currently, only about 18 percent of Chester Countians recycle. As this number increases, the cost of putting our trash in a landfill will decrease.”