Carter County Education and Landfill Committee… Summer school, WIFI, and trash rates a portion of the discussion

Published 5:03 pm Wednesday, January 6, 2021

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The Carter County Education and Landfill Committee held their regularly scheduled meeting consisting of a short discussion on education and a more lengthy one on the landfill side of the agenda for January.

Carter County Director of Schools Dr. Tracy McAbee advised the committee that schools opened this week on a virtual schedule and will be meeting with his principals to determine if there will be enough staff available to go to a hybrid schedule next week.

That hybrid schedule has 50 percent of students in the classroom Monday through Thursday with Friday being a virtual learning day for everyone.

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Dr. McAbee advised the committee that he is not trying to push the issue and will make the best decision to keep the students and staff safe while COVID numbers continue to climb region-wide.

Also, the Director of Schools said that from preliminary numbers that were released, it appears there will be a significant amount of federal money earmarked for schools in the state which Carter County should be receiving sometime from the middle of January to the end of the month.

The director was asked what he could foresee using the money for and Dr. McAbee replied, “I would like to see a very robust summer school running school buses and cafeterias.”

Dr. McAbee said that students have missed an extensive amount of school and some students need the additional time to catch up.

Furthermore, Dr. McAbee commented, “As for as teachers, they are happy if you pay them a regular day of pay to work through the summer.”

One last thing the director touched on was the availability of WiFi hotspots the school system now has to help students without an internet provider in their area.

“If they are in need and can receive a cell phone signal, we can help them,” Dr. McAbee said. “If the committee that is working on broadband can make that happen, it would be a big deal because if broadband ever came through, Carter County would be able to help a lot of people.”

The school system has received a total of 320 hotspot devices for students who need help.

In the landfill portion of the committee meeting, the biggest part of the discussion surrounded landfill rates which currently stand at $42.50 for trash and demolishing rates.

According to committee chair Gary Bailey, Carter County Director of Finance Brad Burke had provided three recommended options for rate increases for the committee to look over and make a decision on.

Those rates provided included $51.75, $52.53, and $55.20 with these rates applying to trash only according to Bailey with the demolition rate remaining at $42.50.

There was much discussion among the committee along with Landfill director Benny Lyons about having two different rates as currently when people cross the scales, many have their trash under their plywood and demo materials and would have to go empty the demo first and then pass through the scales a second time to have the trash weighed which would result in many angry citizens.

Lyons advised that the only way of preventing chaos from happening would be to have the same rates for both especially with handling roll-offs which are used by contractors who will often put trash on one end and demolishing materials at the other.

The landfill director also reminded the committee that when the area for demolition materials is full, those materials will have to be hauled off as well.

Committee member Mark Blevins made a motion to set the rate at $52.50 per ton across the board which the committee failed to pass.

Commissioner Mark Tester reminded the committee that there hadn’t been an increase for 12 to 13 years according to Mr. Lyons. He further stated, “We need to cover our cost in order to operate.”

After a time of discussing the cost of replacing equipment at the landfill and the associated cost, Chairman Bailey reminded the committee that County Attorney Josh Hardin had said that the committee needed to come up with a cost that would apply to everyone across the board.

According to Bailey, the only one who would be paying a different rate would be the CIty of Elizabethton who is under contract and would see an increase in July per the contract.

“You can’t give Big Macs away every day and make money and the same is true for trash,” said Lyons.

Commissioner Tester then made a motion to set the cost at $52.00 per ton across the board for both trash and demolition. When the vote was taking on the motion it passed 4-3 as Commissioner Nancy Brown agreed reluctantly to the increase but at the same time admitted that something had to be done.

The last part of business surrounded when to place the rate into effect as the date to entertain the start of the new fees would be March 1, 2021, as voted on in a 4-3 vote.

The full commission will have to take the matter up and approve the new rates and the start date.