Air quality task force struggles

Vicky Newman-News-Herald

Twice so far this year, Loudon County Air Quality Task Force members have discussed whether the group should continue functioning. The answer remains unclear. The group failed to meet at all in July and August.

Losses in membership and other circumstances have contributed to the problems. With several former members no longer with the task force, the group has found it difficult to obtain a quorum when members did meet. Discussions were brief and informal, and attendance has dwindled continuously.

Longtime task force leader Don Miller, who was involved in the establishment of the group, resigned in May, following Mike Slimbarski, who had resigned at the start of the year. Mike Crosby, longtime chairman had resigned from the leadership position last fall. He missed several meetings then returned as a regular board member, but died June 20 of brain cancer.

The task force's last meeting with a quorum took place the week after Crosby's death.

Brenda Bright, longtime assistant to the Loudon County mayor, said she normally receives volumes of material from the task force. She files all materials in a binder. This year, she said she has received minutes only from the June 26 meeting. She also received a meeting schedule for the year. For 2012, she said the last minutes she received were from Aug. 27.

Chairman Lewis "Charlie Brown" Garner now works in Chattanooga and has a difficult time making meetings.

"I am not sure what is going to happen with the task force," Garner said. "I am not really sure whether it is still relevant. I am going to have to pray about it, but I may have to step down."

Garner said he was disappointed he had not been able to get speakers to come to address crematory emissions, which was the main topic on the agenda for discussion.

"The (city of Loudon) planning commission's committee on crematory zoning met at the same time we were scheduled to meet (Wednesday), so I guess they didn't want our input," Garner said. "I'm not exactly sure what purpose we serve."

Crosby had recommended a replacement for his position on the task force, Carolyn McKinnon Lavers, for an at-large slot. Also recommended for the task force was Barry Baker. The task force voted to recommend both appointments. Commissioner David Meers said he would take the recommendations to county commission for approval. A third position remains unfilled.

The appointments have not yet been made official. "I'm kind of worried about the task force," Lavers said.

Task force member Sherry Lee said the organization's future is something the task force needs to discuss. "I don't know what is going to happen, but I hate to see it fold," Lee said. "There is still a lot of work to be done."

Gerry Schleuter, task force member representing Tate & Lyle, said the task force was appointed by the mayors of Lenoir City, Loudon County and city of Loudon. "I'll stay on it as long as they say they want us," Schleuter said. "If they say they don't want us, then I won't. If they don't want us, I'm OK with that. I think it is a good forum to discuss the issues."