Washington County officials taking steps to save money on solid waste disposal

Gary B. Gray • Nov 30, 2012 at 9:46 PM

Washington County officials are in “go mode” regarding efforts to save money on solid waste disposal after receiving three bids roughly half the current per ton price.

The county, which is considering all options, including the construction of a new transfer station, received three bids that were roughly half the price now paid to dump waste at the Johnson City-owned Iris Glen Environmental Landfill, which is $42.50 a ton.

With some options now on the table, County Mayor Dan Eldridge said the county does not plan to sit on its hands.

First, Charlie Baines, the county’s Solid Waste Department director, already has taken the bids and calculated a total cost per ton based on a tipping fee and transportation costs. This is based on costs from both the current convenience center locations and a potential central location.

“It basically shows the more we haul the more cost effective it will be to haul to a site other than Iris Glen,” Eldridge said. “We’ll then take those numbers and prepare projected costs and compare that to what it has costs us over the past two years.”

He also said Baines and Solid Waste Committee members will look at the possibility of throwing a new transfer station into the mix.

“We’ll take the projected costs of a station and calculate projected savings by being able to increase the amount of tonnage hauled,” Eldridge said. “We’re thinking we could go from 11 tons to 22 tons if we have the transfer station. But this is the way the county should be doing business. And as a result, we’ll be able to determine the return on our investment.”

Meanwhile, Solid Waste Committee members are traveling to Gatlinburg early Monday to view a transfer station there. The committee meets later that day at the county office building.

Bids were received from Advanced Disposal Services, which opened a new landfill in Blountville this year and serves the city of Kingsport; BFI, which operates Carter Valley Landfill in Hawkins County; and Waste Management, the company providing city service.

Three prices were sought: disposal only, in which the county would transport waste to a landfill; disposal from a transfer station; and, disposal, transportation and operation of the transfer station. The county is considering spending up to $750,000 to build a transfer station on Harmony Road between Jonesborough Springs and Fall Branch. County residents would be able to bring waste to the site. It then would be taken by the county to “the least expensive landfill,” Eldridge said.

Johnson City’s Solid Waste Division picks up residential waste within the Washington County Utility District — which is owned by the city but excludes Jonesborough — at about 6,000 to 8,000 locations and takes that to Iris Glen. The county has five convenience centers, two of which sit on city-owned property. These “bins” are taken to Iris Glen by the county.

City Manager Pete Peterson said a few weeks ago at a special called meeting of the City Commission that “We feel the transfer station is not a good move.” He said he felt the move ultimately would be harmful to the WCUD.

“If this waste goes somewhere else, it will decrease tonnage at the landfill,” he said at the time. “They’re (county) going to be locked in for 10 to 20 years to cover their expense, and that will come out of their general fund — a fund the city contributes to significantly through property taxes and other taxes.”

Attorney Erick Herrin, who was representing the city at the special called meeting, but also provides legal services to Washington County, said the county has always gotten a generous rate at Iris Glen. He also said, “In a blunt way, the county is saying, ‘what have you done for me lately?’ The city is trying to say, ‘hey, look what you’re getting.’ We cannot go out and lowball the bids.”

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