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More questions, few answers on county solid waste plan

Madison Mathews • Feb 11, 2013 at 9:53 PM

During the Washington County Solid Waste Committee meeting Monday afternoon, Mayor Dan Eldridge said he had more questions than answers when it came to choosing an option that could save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars on solid waste disposal.

In November, the county received bids from Advanced Disposal Services, which opened a new landfill in Blountville last year and serves Kingsport; BFI, which operates Carter Valley Landfill in Hawkins County; and Waste Management, the company providing services in Johnson City.

Eldridge submitted an addendum, which was unanimously passed by the committee, to the initial bid proposal asking each of the companies to provide the per ton cost for solid waste disposal at both a five- and 10-year fixed rate.

“This is information that we didn’t ask for in the original proposal. If you’ll recall, each respondent submitted pricing that had escalators based on various factors in basically every year over the next 10 years, so I think it’s in our best interest at this point to know what a five-year contract rate and a 10-year contract rate look like before we make a final decision either way,” he said.

Early calculations show that the county could potentially save $200,000 to $300,000 on its solid waste disposal costs through a mix of pricing options.

The county spends an average of about $627,000 a year to haul waste from its five convenience centers to Iris Glen Environmental Landfill in Johnson City. That figure is based on averages from the past two years and includes number of trips, transportation costs, disposal costs and the tipping fee.

Eldridge has said switching to another landfill would save the county about $212,000 a year. An additional $75,000 in savings could be had if the county chooses a centrally-located transfer station, rather than the proposed $750,000 to build a transfer station on Harmony Road between Jonesborough and Fall Branch.

County officials are still considering a new transfer station option, but Eldridge said knowing a fixed rate could affect the decision whether it’s cost-effective in the long-run.

“We may have the three respondents come back and they all three say (they are) not interested in doing it, or we have something less than three, but I feel like it’s prudent for us to ask the question. We gotta ask. I could envision the opportunity that a 10-year fixed price could offer us as being a deciding factor whether or not to actually construct a transfer station,” Eldridge said.

The three bids received were roughly half the price that’s paid to dump waste at the city-owned Iris Glen landfill, which is $42.50 a ton.

City officials have expressed concern that reduced tonnage at Iris Glen would ultimately be harmful to the Washington County Utility District, which is owned by the city but excludes Jonesborough.

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