After a lifetime working as a licensed carpenter, Truman Hedge, found that he needed something else to do. Hardworking man that he is, he took on the responsibility of managing the Benton County Tire Recycle and Drop Off Center on Mount Carmel Road.
The recycle center is open from 8 a.m – 4 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays. This half-week schedule worked well for Hedge, and he shouldered these responsibilities with dedication for the past 3.5 years. Now 79, Hedge is ready to retire for real.
“There is always something to do around the house or yard, and my wife Norma Jean would like for us to travel some,” Hedge said. “I also like to hunt a little.”
The father of Brent and Angela Hedge, Hedge has been married to his wife Norma Jean since 1961. He grew up in Benton County, and has lived here all of his life. He is well known to many in the community.
“Mr. Hedge is one of the kindest people you could ever meet. He certainly will be missed, yet I completely understand his desire to finally retire,” noted Mayor Brett Lashlee. “He has always been very dependable – I’m sure he has never been a second late to work in his entire career! He has been a great asset in his service to the county.”
In his last weeks of service, Hedge is busy training a potential replacement. Dennis Wheatley, who retired last year after working with the City of Camden for 38 years, shadowed Hedge on Monday to see if the position might be a fit for him.
There is more to the job than simply stacking tires in a trailer. Whoever takes the position has to learn complex allotment formulas, apply charges for those who go over their monthly allotment, and know how to allow flexibility for county citizens or businesses in that they may bring all of their tires at once or parse it out over a few trips a month.
Once enough tires are dropped off to fill a trailer, Liberty Tires in Saltillo, Miss., takes them away for recycling at the current cost of $1 per tire. The state provides annual funds of $12,000 to Benton County to pay for this service, but based on figures from the last fiscal year, Benton County paid about $17,000 to Liberty Tire for disposal.
The fact that the county takes in far more tires annually than state funds cover, according to Lashlee, is caused in part by county citizens buying tires outside the county. The surcharge fee paid when buying new tires then goes to the county where the purchase was made, instead of Benton County. This lack of fees not only presents a cost to the county, it impairs efforts to clean up illegal tire dumps.
“Not only would the county have to pay for the clean up, but we also would have to pay to dispose of the extra tires,” Lashlee said. “Many rural counties are lacking the funds to make up the negative financial impact of tire recycling, and some have chosen to charge a county fee. I am contemplating this option and may propose such later in the current fiscal year.”
Lashlee’s ultimate goal is to ensure that the county doesn’t have used tires littering the landscape, and to clean up the unauthorized dumps that exist. Currently, there is no oversight in preventing illegal dumps, hence Lashlee’s plan to implement a county Solid Waste Department at some point.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we need a Solid Waste Department eventually,” Lashlee stressed. “Until then, the existing tire recycling center provides a great resource for our county in controlling tire littering, providing a convenience to our citizens and tire businesses, and promoting recycling. The county is grateful that Mr. Hedge has been such a dedicated part of that.”