Johnson County Commissioners review documents at the most recent meeting. Photo by Meg Dickens
By Meg Dickens
County officials tabled a possible tipping fee increase at the July and August County Commission meetings. As this month’s meeting came, so too did the renewed discussion. The proposed idea was to raise the fee by $8 a ton, which would mean $60 per ton total. Commissioners ultimately voted against the change, leaving a conundrum in its wake.
County Mayor Mike Taylor explained that the possible increased tipping fee or alternately increased property taxes were to keep the Transfer Station, also known as the local dump, self-sustaining. Increased costs and possibly increasing costs are chief factors. Taylor gathered more data to clarify why the Solid Waste Committee recommended this change.
The first issue is expired and expiring contracts. The county’s deal for tire pick up expired in July, which Taylor reported increased disposal fees from around $80 per ton to approximately $180 per ton. The county’s deal with the Bristol, Tennessee landfill also expires within the next two years, and Taylor explains that the county’s dumping cost will more likely than not increase.
“We’re going to have those costs up at the transfer station,” Taylor reiterated a point made by Commissioner Freddy Phipps during the August meeting. “I don’t think there’s any way around it. If our options are a property tax increase or a tipping fee increase, it just makes sense to me that we put it on the tipping fee. Because those big companies like waste management, the cotton mill, and others don’t own property in the county.”
Other forms of money for the Transfer Station have fizzled out. Products like used motor oil could bring money into the business but now take up space and create cost. In the correct form, people bought this product to burn. Now the county is obligated to haul it off at around 25 cents per gallon, equaling approximately $150 to $250 in costs every few months. Part of the renovations mentioned in the previous discussion was to store these materials until recycling.
Other improvements revolve around efficiency. Officials did decide the additional employee mentioned would be necessary. Taylor says he hopes to fund a full-time position through ARP (American Rescue Plan) money but is checking whether that is possible. County officials are still studying the guidelines on these funds. At this point, the county is at an impasse. The tipping fee will remain at $52 per ton, and officials will revisit the underlying problem later. Taylor agreed that now is the time to wait and see and hope for the best.
“We will have to wait until the next budget cycle and see,” Taylor told The Tomahawk about the Transfer Station’s future. “In the meantime, we’ll continue to seek out better contracts and do our best to keep the Transfer Station self-sustaining.”
The Johnson County Commission meets on the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Johnson County Courthouse. The Budget Committee usually meets the hour prior. For more information about the Johnson County government, visit johnsoncountytn.gov.