by Ron Gregory
MADISON — Members of a coalition working to keep Boone County’s trash transfer stations breathed at least a momentary sigh of relief Tuesday. Acting during a regular meeting, members of the Boone County Commission approved applications to permit the county’s two transfer stations for another year.
While Commissioners Eddie Hendricks, Mickey Brown and Atholl Halstead made it clear they will not fund or keep the transfer stations open past January 30, they declared themselves “open to any opportunity” to re-open the stations. Speaking on behalf of the group of civic leaders who have working to keep the stations open, former Sheriff Rodney Miller said at least one company has interest in operating the transfer stations.
Present for the Commission meeting was Wendel Hamilton, sales manager for Republic Services of Lesage. In response to questions from Brown, Hamilton said his company is “prepared to negotiate, learn what your needs are and submit a proposal” to re-open the stations. He said his company takes refuge to a landfill in Kentucky.
Halstead said County Manager Jim Gore would “be happy to set up a meeting where all of that can be discussed.” Halstead emphasized, as did Brown, that “we have tried every avenue we knew of to keep them operating.” He added, “I wish we had known of their interest months ago.”
The Commission has said that severely reduced Coal Severance tax revenues have caused serious cuts in the county budget. They determined that it was not financially possible for the Commission to operate the stations, as they have, past January 30.
“We still don’t have any money for that,” Hendricks said. “But we surely would like to see the stations open and not closed.”
Miller indicated his group would move forward with “coordinating” meetings and negotiations between the private company and the County Commission, which also functions as the Boone County Solid Waste Authority. “We know it is your (the County Commission) authority and your conditions that must be met,” he added. “Our (the ad hoc group) only purpose has been to see if there are options out there. We realize it is, finally, a County Commission decision and we are not criticizing you. We’re only trying to help.”
The vote to apply for another year of permits for the two sites was approved unanimously by the Commission. Gore said the cost would likely be about $1,000 per site for the applicable permits.
“It just makes it easier to re-open them if the permits are already in place,” said Brown. “It wouldn’t make sense to let the permits expire and then start the whole permitting process over.”
After the Commission vote, Gore got together with Miller and representatives of Republic in the hallway to arrange an exchange of information.
The committee had already scheduled a 5 p.m., meeting today at Madison City Hall to consider the Commission’s action. Madison Mayor Sonny Howell has spearheaded the group’s efforts, while pointing out that the City of Madison “has nothing to gain or lose” with the closing of the transfer stations.
Members of the committee would not speculate on how the group might react to the Commission action. At an earlier gathering, some members had advocated seeking a court injunction to keep the stations open past January 30. One member of the group pointed out, however, that such an emergency injunction would likely only be in force ten days before a judge would be forced to hold a full-blown hearing on the matter. “I’m not sure we want the expense and bad feelings that might cause,” he said shortly after the Commission vote.
During the earlier discussion, it was pointed out by some in attendance that Waste Management, the county waste hauler, had been slow in responding to requests from new customers created by the transfer station closures. Halstead and others said Waste Management has always “responded quickly” when a customer has asked for Commission help in providing new services.
Hallstead provided two phone numbers where customers can reach Waste Management for a response. The first is 304-343-6987 in Charleston. If the caller is not satisfied, Commissioners suggested he or she contact William Thornton at 304-720-7613. Halstead said Waste Management has a certificate of convenience to serve Boone County and “have been generally cooperative. In fact, every time we call them, they work things out quick.”
While it appeared that all three Commissioners are skeptical that the transfer stations can be kept open, they all voiced full cooperation. “If there’s a way to keep them open, we’re all for it,” said Hendricks.
In other action Tuesday, the Commission tabled a request from the Town of Sylvester for budgetary help with their Fourth of July event. Brown said he wanted to wait until March, when the fiscal year 2016-17 budget is complete. The Commission did, however, approve a $20,000 annual allocation to Sylvester, noting that the same amount is provided to all county municipalities.