Commissioner Jack Black, who represents Lascassas in the Rutherford County Commission, speaks to residents about issues regarding the Lascassas Convenience Center during a Jan. 22, 2013, community meeting in Lascassas, Tenn. (TMP Photo/M. Kemph)
On Thursday, residents will take their fight for the Lascassas Convenience Center to the Rutherford County Property Management Committee.
The Property Management Committee is expected to discuss where the convenience center could be possibly relocated during its monthly meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. inside the Rutherford County Courthouse.
“We do not want it moved next to the ball field,” said Cindy Martin, whose son plays sports at the Lascassas Community Center on a regular basis. “Why would anyone want to put a dump so close to the community center and (Lascassas) Elementary School?”
Martin was one of nearly 200 residents who attended a community meeting Tuesday at the Lascassas Volunteer Fire Department to discuss possible locations for the convenience center, which has been in operation for nearly 30 years.
Following a heated debate, residents agreed to request for members of the Property Management Committee to form a community-led committee to further examine possible solutions.
“I think Rutherford County needs to request an extension to delay any action until there is a better solution,” said Lascassas resident Hooper Penuel, the former administrator for the Rutherford County Election Commission.
The comments were made on the heels of recent speculation that Rutherford County officials have considered using existing government-owned property that is near the ball field for a new location in order to keep the convenience center in Lascassas.
The convenience center sits on roughly an acre of land, and it has been leased for $15,000 a year from Peachtree Landscaping, which bought the property more than five years ago.
The convenience center is one of several Rutherford County drop-off points for household waste and recyclable materials, such as aluminum, cardboard and plastic.
Residents are upset because Peachtree Landscaping, which owns the strip of land where the convenience center is located, did not renew its lease with Rutherford County.
The lease was not renewed soon after Lascassas residents persuaded Rutherford County officials to back off plans to purchase the entire Peachtree Landscaping site for $1.3 million, so that they could relocate the Solid Waste Department office and garbage truck maintenance there.
Subsequently, the convenience center will close Sunday, Feb. 24 – leaving Lascassas residents less than a month to determine where it should be moved.
“We are going to have a convenience center somewhere here in this community,” said Commissioner Jack Black, who spent more than an hour answering questions and discussing the issue with attendees, many of who were visibly angry over the situation.
“I ran, and I am charged with, saving taxpayer dollars,” he said. “So, I am trying to come up with the best solution.
Black said he does not think the other commissioners will agree to spend more money on another property when Rutherford County already owns some in the area, noting he is disappointed with how the situation has unfolded.
“If I had my way, the way Peachtree Landscaping has treated this community, I would rip out everything – even the pavement – but I have to set my feelings aside,” Black said. “It is my job.”
In light of the recent developments, several Lascassas residents also expressed outrage, accusing Peachtree Landscaping and the Rutherford County Commission of essentially trying to blackmail them into agreeing to the maintenance center.
“We are being used as leverage to negotiate plans,” said Stan Vaught, a real estate agent who lives in Lascassas. “If we can spend $50 million on (Stewarts Creek High School), then $300,000, or whatever it would cost to purchase some land, is a drop in the bucket.”
No matter what, he said, the convenience center needs to remain in Lascassas.
“If the convenience center ever leaves, we will not get it back,” Vaught said, adding he is extremely frustrated because Rutherford County officials have failed to put another plan forward to resolve the matter.
“You are one of 21, and the other 20 commissioners do not give a crap about us,” Vaught said, as he spoke to Black during the meeting. “The county needs to step forward and work with (Lascassas residents) to come up with an answer to this problem.”