Loudon officials debate paying for landfill management, closure costs

Tipping fees, land purchase questioned

Hugh G. Willett-knoxnews.com

LOUDON — Stakeholders in Loudon County’s Solid Waste Disposal Commission want low tipping fees. But the cost of dumping garbage at the Matlock Bend Landfill may have to rise if the commission hopes to save enough money for long-term closure and post-closure costs.
Representatives of county commission and other local governments met with the waste commission Tuesday to discuss specific challenges related to the landfill’s management.
Solid Waste Commission Chairman Steve Field outlined the history and mission of the commission and current finances.
The waste commission is a government agency created under the Interlocal Cooperation Act in 1993 by agreement with stakeholders from Loudon County, the city of Loudon, and Lenoir City, he said. The commission maintains capital assets, including the landfill real estate and accrual accounts, Field said.
“We’re responsible to the three government entities we represent,” he said.
The landfill is managed and operated by Santek Environmental Services of Cleveland, Tenn., under a 20-year contract that allows Santek to set the tipping fees. In 2007 Santek was the only bidder for the contract, Field said.
The commission is paid host fees of 3.75 percent of tipping fees and $1 per ton or 5 percent of tipping fees to cover future closure and post closure care expenses. The competitive nature of the trash business in East Tennessee has resulted in low tipping fees, Field said.
Advertised tipping fees at Matlock Bend are set at about $28.70 per ton, with some customers including stakeholders receiving rates as low as $20 per ton.
“This part of Tennessee has low tipping fees, probably too low,” Field said.
Low tipping fees have resulted in a security fee shortfall that would require an increase of $2.86 per ton to cover closure and post closure. If an expansion currently under review by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is approved, the increase required might be only $1.32 per ton, he said.
Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens asked if such an increase in tipping fees was necessary. An increase in tipping fees might increase garbage collection costs, which might increase taxes, he said.
“It’s difficult to try to explain to taxpayers that we have to raise taxes to cover this,” he said.
Aikens also questioned why the commission has purchased land. According to Field, the commission bought land for future expansion including 150 acres in 1994, and four other plots of 100-plus acres that have been purchased since 2010.