City questions waste collection contract

Stephanie Myers-News-Herald

Lenoir City Council quickly moved through its agenda Monday night until a discussion about contracting the city's residential waste collection.

As the sole vote against the consideration, council member Bobby Johnson Sr. raised concerns about the future of city business should it go with a commercial service. The rest of the board countered Johnson, saying that approving the purchasing committees recommendation of going to bid was not a final decision.

"This is not a for sure, definite thing," Mayor Tony Aikens said. "This has to come back before city council. It may not even come back as a cost-saving measure. The purchasing committee just wanted to look at it.

"I think we owe it to the taxpayers to look just to see if we could save some money," he said. "We want to look at the whole picture. We don't want to just look at part of it."

But Johnson wasn't convinced. "You start with this it's just going to lead to something else down the road," he said. "Surely, you can go out and contract all of your jobs in here, and you wouldn't have any city employees or you wouldn't have anybody here in town.

"You can contract your utilities out, you can contract this out too, you can contract your police department, fire department," Johnson said. "You just keep on going down the road, and pretty soon you're not going to have any residents in Lenoir City, so you won't have any taxes at all. I am not for this. This is just the start. It's going to cause problems down the road later on."

Councilman Eddie Simpson said he would consider contracting garbage collection if it would save taxpayers money from the current rate of $10.50 per month.

"We have no intention of going up on anybody's rates, and if we can't get it down below $10 or $10.50 we won't consider it period," Simpson said.

Other council members agreed.

"I'd be for it if it's saving money, but if it's not saving money and we're just breaking even then I'm against this. That's the way I look at it. I think it's something we need to look at," Councilman Harry Wampler said.

"I don't want to have to raise the rates," Councilman Buddy Hines said.

Should the city move to a contract, Simpson said city employees in garbage pickup would be reassigned to another department. The sanitation department is short-staffed since two employees recently retired.

"The best thing you can do if you're going to make changes in employment is to do it through attrition, and that's what that is," Simpson said. "That's not replacing those two positions. It's shifting people around and attempting to do as good or a better job without those two people for less money for the taxpayers."

Johnson again voiced questions, asking about the future of city workers.

"What I'm saying is where are you going to put all these other employees? What are they going to be doing? Then if you start crowding them up, and you don't need them all, then you'll lay those people off," he said.

"Let's get the numbers, and then when we come back," Councilman Mike Henline said. "That's when we can discuss whether it's a good deal or not."

Aikens stressed that moving to a commercial service would not include city employee layoffs. He also pointed out expense concerns since the street and sanitation department will need a new garbage truck in the near future.

"You know we're going to have to be looking into buying a $150,000 garbage truck if we don't do something. J.J. (Cox, street and sanitation department superintendent) tells me there is one he's just limping by and the other one is an '04," Aikens said. "There is a lot of cost involved, and the only thing I want you to do is just look at it with an open mind. I'm certainly not for laying anybody off. I can tell you that right now."

Council approved requesting bids.

In other business, council:
* Approved the second and final reading of the planning commission's recommendation to rezone certain properties along Martel Road from R-1 single family residential district to C-3 highway commercial district.

Leslie Johnson, city code enforcement officer, said letters were sent to all properties and surrounding properties affected by this potential rezoning.

"This particular piece of property they are making some plans for just a parking lot at this time. In the future, they have some ideas for the dealership to do some expansions, but this is the first step in this process is to rezone that property," Johnson said.

* Approved the mayoral appointment of Vonnie Myers to the Lenoir City Beer Board.

* Approved full-time employment for Shelley B. Herron, who works in the city clerk's office.

* Approved the mayoral appointment of Theo Arnwine to the Lenoir City Planning Commission as a city resident representative. Arnwine's term expires in 2014.

* Approved the mayoral appointment of Bill Thomas to the Lenoir City Planning Commission as urban growth boundary representative. Thomas' term expires in 2015.

* Approved the mayoral appointment of Barry White to the Lenoir City Planning Commission as urban growth boundary representative. White term expires in 2016.

* Approved the mayoral appointment of Councilman Eddie Simpson to the Lenoir City Planning Commission as a City Council representative. Simpsons term expires with his council term.