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Down to the final straw… Landfill committee looks to community to step up or have service end

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
When it came to the recycling center on Mill Street in the past, both the county and city had concerns with the service being halted at one point. Through cooperation on both sides, the center was able to re-open to provide a needed site to drop recyclables such as cardboard, plastic, and aluminum cans.

However, due to the recent unacceptable and disrespectful actions of a few, many may see that service soon be ended as the Carter County Landfill Committee initially voted to stop servicing the facility by a 6-2 vote.

One last-ditch pitch by Landfill and Recycling Director Benny Lyons was made to keep the service for one month to see if the public after being made aware of the situation could resolve the problem and ensure service could remain.

“Can I make a suggestion – that we change that vote on suspending those services and go one more month because the police have been down there because I have seen them down there and I have talked to them there,” said Lyons to the committee.

“We have both papers here – the Johnson City Press and the Elizabethton Star. Let them run an article on this thing that we are going to have to shut it down if people continue to put trash in there. Carter County will quit servicing because we can’t shut it down.”

Elizabethton City Street and Sanitization Director Danny Hilbert stated, “If you discontinue service, we are going to have to block it off as we did during the pandemic so people can’t get in there to use it because we don’t have the equipment to pick up roll-off equipment with.”

The result – a motion was made to reconsider the initial vote to suspend service and a second motion made to keep the service for one more month to see if the problems would resolve themselves once the public had an opportunity to be made aware and respond accordingly.

The vote was 7-0 with Mark Blevins passing.

There were several options discussed in regards to stopping the problem of people placing dirty diapers, trash, and even used syringes in with cardboard and other recyclables which creates health issues for workers at the recycling center as well as getting re-billed for cardboard that may be sent to the warehouse for having contaminating items mixed in the cardboard.

A question was asked about putting up cameras that could be monitored by someone and citations and fines issued to those who were either by error or intentionally placing trash in the bins that are only made to receive recyclable material.

County Attorney Josh Hardin told the committee that more than likely a judge would throw the citation out of court saying, “Don’t count on criminal prosecution solving anything. In my opinion, the more people in the community that care would be more impacted by knowing why it’s going to be suspended and help to keep it open in the future by monitoring or help to monitor it themselves.”

Hilbert, Lyons, and Landfill Chairman Gary Bailey were looking for suggestions from the committee on what to do to rectify the situation as the City’s responsibility was to provide the location for the recycling center and the containers and the county’s responsibility was to provide pickup services for the recyclables in a gentleman’s agreement when the grant was received as no agreement was signed when the grant was received.

Lyons and Commissioner Kelly Collins both said that the city police have been patrolling by the center and talking to individuals who might be putting materials in which they shouldn’t with some individuals already receiving warnings about putting the wrong items in the dumpsters.

“We all know this – Keep Carter County Beautiful is a wonderful thing for Carter County, but we have people in this county that have no respect for anything, and I’m sorry,” said Hilbert. “They don’t respect City property, they don’t respect Carter County property or anything else and they make my job miserable and your job miserable by doing what they do.

“And we try to help people by constructing a recycling drop-off and what do they do? It’s no cost to them and what do they do?”

Lyons hoped that getting the message out may help change people’s habits when they are taking advantage of the service being provided.

He also informed the committee that the recycling center will once again start receiving plastic on August 9th at the recycling centers.