Fore Note: Now that the county has joined with the two cities to move forward, the three stakeholders have taken all responsibility for the old, closed landfill. The three stakeholders will spend more than $500,000.00 dollars to make minor repairs to the old landfill which is private property owned by a multimillion dollar developer. A great deal for him.

County OKs Poplar Springs work By Jeremy Nash

Loudon County Commission on Monday voted to continue Poplar Springs Landfill remediation after receiving a letter from Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Director Patrick Flood in September.

Although the vote passed 7-2 with Commissioners Van Shaver and Earlena Maples opposing, the board engaged in a lengthy discussion. Commissioner Matthew Tinker was absent.

Commission in August agreed to hold off signing an agreement with contractor JD Anderson. The decision was made after commissioners learned earlier this year an exorbitant amount of legal services and expert fees were being taken out of the Poplar Springs post-closure reserve.

As of Monday, Commissioner Kelly Littleton-Brewster estimated the reserve had about $195,000 in it. The fund initially had $437,968 four years ago.

“I think there’s an awful lot of money gone and we still haven’t started the project,” Maples said. “I have no idea where — if the money runs out it’s going to come from the taxpayers. ... We don’t want to be disrespectful to the people that live there or cause them any harm, but the thing is also we’ve got to have the money to pay for whatever we do, whatever comes up.”

Flood’s letter stated the county had a stake in the matter despite not owning the property. Failure to move forward would result in a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per day for violation of the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act.

“I don’t agree with threatening like people that if you don’t do this you’re going to have this done and all this kind of stuff,” Maples said. “That’s no good. We need to be in here and do what we’re going to do for the betterment of the people and try to be as cautious as we can with the taxpayer money.”

Commissioner Harold Duff echoed Maples’ thoughts.

“When we were elected we were given the authority to cast a yes and a no vote,” Duff said. “That’s worked for me in my 24th year. Now we’re told by the state of Tennessee to sign a contract, ‘Vote yes or we are going to fine you $5,000 a day.’ Where did the no votes go? Where did the yes votes go? We have one vote here on Pat Flood’s letter and that’s to vote yes or we’re going to be punished. ... We can’t vote no and expect the taxpayers of Loudon County to pay that kind of money.”

Littleton-Brewster and David Meers motioned and seconded to move forward with the state grant to do remediation, but before a vote could be made Shaver asked for an amendment so that the project would be contingent upon the county receiving its $88,000 that was taken out of the general fund to pay for attorney Bob Bowman’s work on Poplar Springs Landfill. Work dates back to 2013. He asked for money to come out of the old landfill’s post-closure reserve.

Littleton-Brewster worried taking $88,000, along with the county’s match of the $87,000 for the state grant, would dwindle reserves down too much to maintain the property for a decade. Per an agreement, Loudon County will maintain the landfill for 10 years before handing it over to property owner Herb Newton.

She also said reimbursement would require all entities involved to approve.

“If we pass the amendment and Lenoir City or the city of Loudon says, ‘No, we’re not reimbursing the money,’ then we stop the whole original motion to proceed with the grant,” Steve Harrelson, commission chairman, said.

“That’s exactly the intent I have with the amendment because we already know at least one of the cities has said absolutely no way, no shape, no how is the county going to ever get their money back,” Shaver said. “If any of us have any interest of at least being on the same playing field with everybody else, we shouldn’t be out of any money either. (Loudon’s) not out. Lenoir City’s not out. Why does the county got to be out?”

The amendment failed 4-5, with Commissioners Harrelson, Duff, Leo Bradshaw, Bill Satterfield and Henry Cullen opposing.

“This will go down as the greatest most awful mistake this body ever made in the history of Loudon County,” Shaver said. “The most costly mistake this body ever made in the history of Loudon County. This is going to be our doom for the rest of our life. This was unnecessary, it should have never happened. Whether it was $340,000, whether it was $170,000, this was brought to us by Mr. (Bob) Bowman from Mr. (Buddy) Bradshaw.”

Shaver said moving forward would be a “colossal mistake of biblical proportions” for the county.

“All 10 commissioners were put in place by their representatives to vote their convictions and we don’t need to be talking about each other or saying we just devastated Loudon County,” Harrelson said.

In other action, Loudon County Commission:

• Voted down matching Loudon’s $5,000 contribution for a fishing tournament.

• Appointed individuals to 21 boards and committees.

• Agreed to lift certain Tennessee Valley Authority rights-of-way for land off Steekee School Road, allowing property owners to reclaim their property.

• Rezoned 7.65 acres at 16746 Highway 11 East in Lenoir City from R-1 (suburban residential district) to R-1 (suburban residential district) with a planned unit development overlay of 2.5 units per acre.

• Accepted a $1,271 technology grant, dollar-for-dollar match from the Loudon library subfund.

• Approved amendments made to General Purpose School Fund 141 and School Federal Projects Fund 142, with the largest being $465,000 from Fund 141. The majority of that will be for capital projects for Loudon County Board of Education.