published Monday, September 12th, 2011

Rhea County seeks solution on disposal centers

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    George Thacker was elected Rhea County executive in 2010.
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DAYTON, Tenn. -- Rhea County officials are seeking a solution to keep the nine waste disposal convenience centers throughout the county open without increasing taxes.

Commission workshops usually are on Tuesdays, but county officials reset the workshop for today because of a joint meeting with Cleveland, Tenn., officials. Rhea County Executive George Thacker said the issue would be discussed today.

Thacker told the Purchase and Finance Committee last week that the county might have to shut the centers down or increase taxes to keep them open.

"No one wants [the convenience] centers shut down," Thacker said.

Finance Director Bill Graham said residents of seven counties now use the landfill. Earlier this year, Graham referred to the centers as "nonfunding and a drain on [the county's] budget."

Commissioner Tom Smith asked about the contract with Cleveland, Tenn.-based Santek Environmental, which operates the landfill.

Graham said the county was "locked in" a 20-year contract with Santek that expires in 2017.

He said the county's budget had allocated money several years ago into the waste disposal fund without tipping fees being charged.

"Revenue stayed, but expenses increased," Graham said.

Chairman Ronnie Raper asked Thacker for viable options to ensure that the centers remain open without increasing taxes to generate revenue.

In other matters, school board member Bill Davault suggested the county separate itself from school board finances.

"What we need is for the school board to have their own finance committee," as Meigs, Roane and neighboring counties do, Davault said.

Raper dismissed that idea.

Graham said the current system was "working good," and the county didn't need separate entities. The finance department is working on "tweaking things," he said.

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