A half billion-dollar landfill fix and a proposal to increase the wheel tax are on the table for the Rutherford County Commission.
Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron cast a vision of a $530.3 million-plus plan to address the community’s solid waste needs during a meeting last Tuesday of the County Commission’s Public Works & Planning Committee meeting.
Also, tax increases were discussed.
The county wheel tax is currently $52.50. Public Works Committee Chairman Mike Kusch, who also leads the infrastructure subcommittee, said the last wheel tax increase was in 2000. Every $10 in the wheel tax generates $2.4 million. He said it is believed that the emissions fee for license plate renewals will go away in the near future, and that could allow for an increase in the wheel tax.
“We’re talking about the ability to raise some real money,” Kusch said.
The wheel tax proposal will go before the full commission Thursday for preliminary discussion, Kusch said. An increase would require two-thirds approval at two consecutive meetings.
A mineral severance tax has been considered but according to Kusch, it would require state approval to set up and so will not be considered further at this time. According to the County Technical Assistance Service, this is a local option tax on all sand, gravel, sandstone, chert and limestone removal in a county and given for a county road fund.
Solid waste options
Ketron spent time discussing his vision for life after the Middle Point Landfill closes.
The $530.3 million-plus price tag would combine the use of services that turn waste into jet fuel as well as compost, plus recycling services. It also accounts for the loss of revenue the county receives from the operation of Middle Point.
The $530.3 million cost breakdown, according to the mayor’s presentation, is: tipping fee costs, $2.6 million; loss of revenue from the landfill, $1 million; jet fuel conversion site, $450 million; composting, $36 million; and recycling, $35 million.
Those are start-up costs and do not include annual operating costs. Jet fuel production would cost $2 million per year; composting would cost $36 million per year; and recycling would cost $2 million annually.
The estimates are based on presentations that different private companies have provided the county on their waste management services.
The mayor said he does not want to place the entire $530.3 million on county taxpayers and mentioned the need to form public-private partnerships. Since taking office last August, Ketron has led field trips to visit sites that are repurposing waste or invited businesses to make presentations to the Public Works Committee.
The Public Works Committee asked county staff to present a draft request for the mayor’s proposal in 45 days. The committee members said they are still open to other options, including the possibility of burning waste to generate electricity to sell to large commercial users in La Vergne.
Ketron said he would like to divert edible food that has been prepared for use at restaurants and venues — but not served — instead of sending it to the landfill. This sometimes happens if a venue orders too much food for an event, for example. The concept is called food rescue, and the food is served to the less fortunate. Rutherford County Schools Director Bill Spurlock has expressed interest in high school culinary students helping with such a program by preparing the food, he said.
On average, 10 percent of solid waste cannot be repurposed or recycled and would still have to be dumped, Ketron said.
The Public Works Committee is scheduled to meet again Dec. 18 and may hear additional solid waste presentations. Committee members asked about requesting the presence of representatives from Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp., Tennessee Valley Authority and/or Nashville Electric Service to discuss selling those utilities electricity created by burning waste. Republic is scheduled to make a presentation on solid waste on Jan. 22.