Commission approves extended solid waste fee contract with BFI

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Competition benefits the consumer, according to capitalism.
   The Carter County Commission voted to extend the county's solid waste disposal contract with Baxter-Ferris Industries (BFI) with a lower disposal fee due in part to competition among the region's solid waste collection companies, said the county's solid waste director.
   "When the landfill went in at Bristol, Virginia, the competition really got tight," Director Ed Buckles told commissioners.
   The county commission approved a contract with BFI for solid waste disposal in 1999 with a "tipping fee" of $20.99 per ton of garbage plus a $7.99 hauling fee. A fee rate that remains unchanged, said Buckles.
   Under that contract, the tipping fee was scheduled to rise to $24.75 per ton beginning in 2004.
   When the approved contract takes effect in 2004, the tipping fee will be $23.25 per ton. A reduction that is expected to save the county $90,000 over the life of the new contract.
   Buckles said increased competition between BFI and Waste Management Services coupled with the new Bristol landfill had contributed to the lowered tipping fee.
   The contract also includes a provision allowing the county or BFI to opt out of the contract.
   The commission approved the new contract 23-0 with Dickie Renfro absent.
   With the state of Tennessee's budget now in place, Budget Committee chairman Harry Sisk told commissioners that the county budget could now take shape.
   The commission approved the issuance of $1 million in tax notes to ensure general fund appropriations were met for the fiscal year.
   "Since our property taxes don't start coming in until October, this allows the county to continue to operate all that time under the $1 million," said Sisk.
   The issuance creates revenue to allow the county's general fund to operate in case funds come up short before October, Sisk added.
   A tight county budget would be exacerbated by recent annexations into the county's western end by the City of Elizabethton, County Executive Truman Clark stated.
   "You are probably going to lose around $100,000 with the recent annexation in Happy Valley," he told the commission.
   A ruling made in April by the Local Government Planning Advisory Committee in Nashville gave the city the right to regulate the development of new subdivisions in a portion of the county outside the city limits under the state's urban growth plan.
   The urban growth area is defined as being county areas on the fringe of the city that receive city services and are expected to become a part of the city in five to 10 years or longer.
   Clark -- who's Milligan Highway residence was one of the properties annexed -- said annexations cost the county revenues from shared state sales taxes, cable television franchise fees, and Hall income tax revenues.
   "You add all those things up and it's a pretty good loss of money," he said. "Annexation hurts the county, and I'm one of the annexees."
   The commission also approved the Recreation Committee's decision to allow a rafting company from Banner Elk, N.C., to use county property in the Watauga Industrial Park.
   Greg Barrow, owner of Edge of the World outdoor sports, met with the committee earlier this month to request using county property to land rafts coming down the Watauga River on whitewater rafting expeditions.
   Commissioner Wayne Smith said Barrow had agreed to pay the county $250 per month for use of the property as well as supply gravel to cover foot traffic on the property created by rafters once they land on the property.
   "He's already paid us two months in advance," added Commissioner Ralph Watson.
   Barrow told the committee last week the company currently paid $7.50 per boat to a private property owner to land their rafts.
   "We said any other rafting company will have to pay the same thing," said Adeline Hyder.
   George Dugger, the county's attorney, said the county could not exercise a "release of liability" for the rafters' use of the property but said the county had insurance in case an injury occurred to a rafter on the property.
   Barrow had previously told the commission and Recreation Committee that the company was also insured for liability.
   The committee will oversee regulation of the agreement under the commission's approval.
   In other business, the commission voted unanimously to appoint Lou Ella Randolph to replace Helen Zeller on the Carter County Library Board.
   Zeller informed the board she would be unable to complete her term to the board, according to a letter from Library Director Joyce H. White to Clark.