By Kendall Patterson
Discussion on whether or not a fee would be collected to dispose of solid waste came to a close during the Chester County Commission quarterly meeting on Monday, Nov. 17.
The Chester County Commission and the Chester County Solid Waste Department first approached the community about the need of a solid waste fee in July. After a few months of heavy discussion for and against the fee and how much it should be, after hearing out the community, a vote by the commission at their quarterly meeting on Sept. 14 resulted in the approval of the fee being $7 a month. The only step left to make the decision final was the approval of the Private Act that would allow the Chester County Trustee Office to collect the fees. This act needed to be approved so it could go to the state legislature in January.
With 17 commissioners present, John Welch being absent, the Private Act was approved in a 14-3 vote with Jerry Lowe, Al McKinnon and Joseph Melaro voting against it.
Prior to the roll call vote, there was some discussion on what they were approving.
“Is everyone of the understanding that we are creating a new fee for the citizens of this county? Another new fee,” said Commissioner Melaro. “We’re taxing our citizens, because we aren’t exploring the alternatives of reducing a budget we bailed out on. You understand that don’t you?”
Commissioners responded they understood in addition to Chester County Mayor Barry Hutcherson.
“I’m sorry about this, but we are having to tax or put a fee. It’s really not a tax but a fee, because it’s something that everyone uses.” Hutcherson said.
Mayor Hutcherson said that though it has to take place, they are looking for ways to reduce it in the future.
“We’re already working on ways to possibly to reduce that,” he said.
He mentioned how one of the best ways to reduce the fee in the future would be for citizens to recycle more.
This fee has no exceptions. It applies to all who create trash from individuals, to churches, Freed-Hardeman University and etc.
Also, during the meeting Aeneas Chief Executive Officer Stephen Thorpe and Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation Vice President of Technical Operations William V. Gordon spoke about the STEMC fiber broadband project in Chester County.
“With the need for broadband internet services growing at an exponential rate, Southwest Tennessee Electric and Aeneas Internet and Telephone are joining forces to bring this much needed service to more people around West Tennessee! This partnership will allow future expansions of existing Aeneas fiber cities as well as reach the underserved areas of West Tennessee that have no broadband option available to them,” Thorpe said in a release about the project.
Currently, the project is in phase 1 of a 5 phase plan that is slotted to take up to 5 years to fully complete. Phase 1 includes 4 counties in West Tennessee which include Tipton, Haywood, Hardeman, and Chester counties.
Thorpe said they are about four to six weeks away from connecting residents of Chester County, specifically in the Jacks Creek area.
“We are really excited to finally provide a reliable, affordable, and blazing fast internet service to folks that had little to no access to broadband. It’s such a vital service with the times we are in,” Thorpe said.
Chester County residents should be aware that the project only, as of now, is for Southwest service lines.
Those that are interested in the service can sign up at website http://fiber.aeneas.com. On this site individuals can enter their address and contact details and in order to be contacted when services are available.
For all the details on the project, the Aeneas and STEMC partnership, pricing, etc. visit aeneas.com/stemc.
The Chester County Commission approved that they will hire an Inspector/ Maintenance and Subdivision Code enforcement officer for the county. They approved to start looking for a hiree with a salary starting at $48,000, but it will be negotiable to go higher. The Commission also hopes to get whomever is hired to eventually live in the county if they do not already.
The commission also approved for $5,000 toward a camera, computer, printer and software for the Chester County Historian James Bright so that he can start preserving Chester County history in photos. Bright will also be given an office in a part of the former home of the Chester County Rescue Squad.
The rescue squad was approved to move into the old ambulance facility.
Savannah Gilbert, Chester County Library Director, also informed the public of the highlights for the library from the 2019-2020 year.
Of 18 library systems in the region, the Chester County Library had the third highest (right behind Jackson Madison County Library and Tipton County Library) physical materials circulation with 8,821 physical items checked out (DVDs, books, audiobooks, learning kits, etc.) and also in READS circulation with 5,156 digital materials checked out (through the Libby/ Overdrive app. These are e-books and audiobooks).
The CC Library had the fifth highest (right behind Tipton County, Everett Horn-Henderson County, Jackson Madison County, and Elma Ross Public Library) in computer usage with 772 computer sessions.
“It has been so nice to see the library growing and being utilized in the way it was over the past year, even in the midst of COVID-19,” Gilbert said.
The library was number one in WiFi usage with 9,034 logins to the wi-fi and also in hotspot circulation with 92 checkouts of hotspots.
At the end of the meeting, Jerry Lowe recommended the mayor to make a mask mandate with Chester County COVID-19 case numbers rising. Mayor Hutcherson responded saying that he will strongly recommend and urge everyone to wear a mask when around people.