The Bulk Waste Study Committee of the Hamblen County Commission met Thursday night and brainstormed over ideas on how to limit the amount of material being placed on the side of county roads, while also educating the public on what should be put on the side of the roadways.
A number of topics addressed including limiting the amounts that can be collected for each property owner, limiting commercial developments unless they pay a fee and making sure anyone who gets a building permit also knows they are responsible for removing materials, not the county.
Barry Poole, the county’s road superintendent, warned commissioners several times not to get too hasty in limiting the service to the public, which has been a benefit for years.
“Let’s just take small bites on this,” he said.
Commissioners have taken steps the last few months to limit the amount of bulk waste the county is seeing. County records show that over the years tonnage the county is seeing from bulk waste is increasing.
On top of that, there are environmental concerns and concerns about sightlines as commissioners say junk and garbage is being mixed in with bulk waste.
Commissioner Scotty Long, the chairman of the committee, challenged committee members to come up with a definition of what is considered bulk waste.
“Most cities and towns define bulk waste,” he said.
He said his definition of bulk waste would be large items that “you can put in the back of a truck and haul it to the landfill,” not items that can be put in a garbage bag.
But, Poole warned even that can be a slippery slope. He used an example that flower pots could be put in a garbage bag, but can mess up the truck if the material breaks.
One suggestion Poole said would go a long way is to limit the amount of waste that can be put on the side of the road.
“I think establishing a size would be a first step,” he said.
He told commissioners the city currently will pick up about a quarter of a truck bed of material. He suggested the county could do a half a truck load of material every two weeks.
Long also challenged Poole to come up with a schedule on when highway crews could pick up materials, so the public would know when to place it out for collection like the garbage schedule.
Poole said crews never know the amount that is going to be placed out, so that could be problematic. He said during summer months when people are more active, the amount of waste also goes up. Poole said that may mean hiring more crew members.
“We can limit the amount of volume,” Long replied.
Commissioner Chris Cutshaw said one large step may be having a discussion about limiting the amount of commercial waste placed out, especially with apartments and rental properties.
“Why don’t we just start with that,” he said. “Define these commercial entities and that can be a first bite.”
Some commissioners said that could be problematic on defining what is rental and some property owners may say they pay property taxes as well.
But, Long agreed with Cutshaw. He said he owns a business, but he also has to pay $150 a month for his trash to be picked up.
“That’s the cost of doing business,” Long said.
Hamblen County Commissioner Mike Minnich also suggested that as people get business licenses they also need to be aware they are responsible for the removal of any debris left over from construction. Commissioners agreed and said they would check with building permits in the code’s office to see if that is being conducted.
The next meeting for the Bulk Study Waste Committee will be on Sept. 12.