After 40 years, Hamilton County will close the gates at the Sequoyah Transfer Station — the last county-operated garbage drop-off site — on Saturday.
Since 1977, area residents have paid minimal fees to bring their trash to the station for the county to haul it to the landfill in Birchwood. The station, on Lovell Road in Soddy-Daisy, also has accepted solid waste from private garbage collectors. Except for the landfill, it is the only garbage drop-off spot the county still operates.
The Lovell Road recycling center next to the transfer station will remain open.
In a recent meeting, Mayor Jim Coppinger told county commissioners his office has heard from several concerned residents since announcing the closure.
"There's no longer a need for Hamilton County to be doing this," Coppinger said. "The reason it was started in the beginning is because there was not a private service that was there that was capable of doing it. We've looked at this over the last two years and we're at a point where we're comfortable there's providers in the private sector who do provide this service."
Private garbage collectors have told him they cannot compete with the county's Soddy-Daisy presence, and it is "costing them jobs and business," he said.
But Hixson resident Edward Bridges, in a letter to the Times Free Press, said the station closure would "bring much concern and grief among hundreds of residents." Bridges doesn't believe private contractors immediately can handle a sudden boost in haulage.
"This will result in roadside drop offs and people dumping in trash containers of local businesses," Bridges said, adding he and other users would be willing to pay more to keep the station open.
Coppinger underscored several financial factors for closing up shop. It would cost $385,000 to replace or repair the site's compactor, trucks and other equipment to keep it in business. And for years, the fees residents pay haven't begun to cover the station's $300,000 annual operational cost.
Hamilton County Public Works figures show the station brought in $120,000 a year in recent years, down 14 percent from $140,000 five years ago. That means the county has been losing nearly $200,000 a year on the station.
Public works administrator Todd Leamon said in an interview the closure was put off until the equipment had to be replaced and vacancies could be found for the station's three employees.
An factor had to do with usage, he said. When Soddy-Daisy used to provide garbage service — it hasn't done that in years — and before private curbside service became available, the facility took in 80 percent more solid waste than it does now.
"At that point we were pulling about a semi tractor-trailer a day in garbage," Leamon said. "We don't even get a full tractor-trailer a week there [now]. We usually pull one a week to just to keep odor control."
In addition to existing private curbside service, Leamon said he believed a private operator plans to open a garbage collection site in Soddy-Daisy in the near future.
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.