Loudon County waste panel votes to reduce expenses

Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

LOUDON — The Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission on Tuesday voted to implement a range of options with the goal of reducing the commission's operating expenses.

The solid waste commission, which ran more than $200,000 in the red during the last audit, is also facing a shortage that could be in the millions of dollars for the long term closure and post closure costs associated with the Matlock Bend Landfill.

Among the discussion was whether or not to reduce the number of meetings held per year from once a month to quarterly.

Ray Chadwick, Loudon County citizen, told the commission they would be failing in their responsibility to the citizens if they met any less than once a month.

The commission voted to eliminate the 50.00 stipend commissioners receive for attending each monthly meeting. Commission Attorney Kevin Stevens offered to switch from hourly billing, which has been costing the commission up to$50,000 per year, to a flat fee of $2500 per month.

The commission agreed to table the discussion on the meeting schedule because the greatest recurring monthly expenses—attorney fees and commission stipends—had now been eliminated.

One of the most controversial issues was the decision in January to send a letter to the state AG's office for an opinion on whether the County Trustee's Office can charge a 1% fee for handling and investing the commission's revenue.

Several commissioners, including Kelly Littleton Brewster and Larry Jameson, said they disagreed with the purpose of the letter. Jameson pointed out that the county is one of three stakeholders in the commission and must perform clerical tasks and make financial decisions for which it should be reimbursed.

County commissioner Van Shaver asked the commissioners if they were ready to take the issue to court.

A motion by Brewster to rescind the letter was defeated in a 4-to-3 vote.

The commission also discussed whether to cut the funding for commissioners to attend a yearly conference on waste disposal. Commission Chairman Steve Field said commissioners were only reimbursed to the extent of the county expense policy.

Former waste commissioner Aileen Longmire challenged the assertion by Field, [pointing out that Commissioner Tom Paul, representing Tellico Village, had submitted expenses of more than $900 for last year's conference, far in excess of the county policy.

"I saw the warrant. He was paid for all of it," she said.

Paul responded that he was new to the commission at the time and didn't understand the policy.

Pat Hunter, Loudon County activist, said it doesn't matter what the county expense policy says when the commissioners and the county accounting and budget department ignored the rules. She pointed out to a $1200 dinner tab reimbursed during the tenure of former County Mayor Estelle Herron in which those at the dinner ordered New York strip steaks at $120.00 each and one person ordered a three and a half pound lobster at a cost of $160.00

A motion by Commissioner Robert Harrison to continue funding expenses at the conference passed 5 to 2.