Last month, as part of his desire to clean up Benton County, Mayor Brett Lashlee unveiled a plan to create a new Solid Waste Department (SWD) within Benton County government (see the Feb. 28 edition of The Camden Chronicle). On March 21, he took the next step to see it done.
In a meeting with the Solid Waste Board on Thursday evening, Lashlee urged the board to recommend the creation of a SWD to oversee and enforce “all things waste” within Benton County. He asked that they make this recommendation to the County Commission, so that commissioners could move forward with approving the creation and initial funding of such a department.
“County government is responsible for the oversight and enforcement of proper waste disposal and management, and we are in dire need of a department to handle this responsibility,” Lashlee said. “I propose the creation of a Solid Waste Department as a step in the right direction to clean up Benton County.”
Present for the meeting were board members Ronnie Hopper, Debbie Kyle, Cindy Wheatley, and Chairman Russell King. Gary Furr was absent. Also present were Michael Fox, of Fox Sanitation; Wanda Fuzzell, a solid waste planner with the Northwest Tennessee Development District (NWTDD); and nearly a dozen citizens.
Fuzzell made her annual report regarding the county’s solid waste reduction statistics for 2018, noting that Benton County once again met the goal of reducing solid waste disposal by 25 percent or more. Meeting this benchmark each year is required for the county to be eligible to receive grant funds from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
Lashlee noted that he plans to pursue a TDEC grant to fund the installation of waste convenience centers at the north and south ends of the county. With only a 10 percent match required from the county to install these centers, Lashlee stressed that it would be well worth it to decrease illegal dumping in the county. One role of the new SWD would be to manage these sites.
“Creating a Solid Waste Department would provide the infrastructure needed to better manage waste issues, such as installing grant-funded waste convenience centers, but it does not mean that the department must be fully funded or staffed from the outset,” Lashlee explained. “It may take some time to sort out the funding, and for an initial period of time, I would take on the role of solid waste director. The important part is to get a department on the books so the county can move forward in dealing with some of our pressing waste management issues.”
Solid Waste Board members agreed to review Lashlee’s proposal and vote on endorsing his plan at a follow-up meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 16, at 5 p.m. As the meeting closed, Fuzzell advised, “Any county with a landfill, much less four landfills such as Benton County, needs a solid waste department and director.”