RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The landfill battle in Rutherford County takes center stage at an open house event Wednesday.
The owners of Middle Point Landfill are warning that it will be at capacity in less than six years and has asked to have the landfill expanded. However, it’s not a move being supported by local government officials in Rutherford County.
“It’s a no go because our children and our grandchildren, our great grandchildren deserve a better legacy than that,” said Rutherford County Mayor Joe Carr during a briefing with Murfreesboro’s mayor Tuesday. “That’s where we’re stuck. And so for you and I, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to figure out diversion, have them not move so much trash into the ground, but also how to get solid waste independence for Rutherford County and its municipalities.”
Carr said one of the biggest concerns was the number of communities using the landfill based in Rutherford County, saying 70-72% of the trash that is at Middle Point comes from outside of county.
“That’s the big rub, because it’s just not Davidson County, which comprises over 50% of the trash at Middle Point, but it’s the 30-34 other counties in Middle Tennessee that bring their trash here,” Carr said. “We just believe that our community is much more than Middle Tennessee’s trashcan, Rutherford County, and we can do better.”
He said another concern was the contract between the landfill and local government.
“Of all the contracts I’ve ever read, it is absolutely the most one-sided that I’ve ever seen. It’s not just a bad contract for Rutherford County, Murfreesboro, it’s a horrible contract. And so, you know, unless Republic is willing to have a discussion about a Rutherford County only solution, I think they’re going to find that Middle Point is not going to be an option in the very near term.”
Carr said their immediate solution to get solid waste independence is to build a transfer station so they can be ready as a county for the inevitable of when Middle Point closes.
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Recently a Davidson County judge denied BFI Waste System of Tennessee’s application to build a new landfill. The project would use 99 acres along Jefferson Pike near the company’s current operations at Middle Point. The judge says there was “substantial and material evidence” supporting an earlier court decision to reject the proposal.
Middle Point general manager Mike Classen explained that the 800-acre property will always be a landfill but they’re thinking of different alternatives for the future.
“We think rather than saying, all right, this 800 acres is just a brown smudge in the way of development forever we say let’s work together to convert it into an integrated solid waste management campus,” said Classen. “Let’s build a recycling facility. Let’s build household hazardous waste and recycling and drop off programs. Let’s build parks, community outreach, environmental education facilities, partnering with city and county schools. All of that is in the plan that we’re talking about right now, with commissioners at Rutherford County.”
He said they want to build trust with people in the community.
“I think there’s some distrust in the community, that looking long term into the future. How can we be sure that you know you fix the problems now, but we think that’s because you want to get an expansion and be here longer, like how can we be sure that you want to be you’re going to you’re going to keep those things up long term?” said Classen. “That’s a conversation about trust. That’s a conversation about corporate citizenship. That’s a conversation about making sure we restructure the contract that we have with the county into the future in such a way that the county has some leverage over us as the operator of that facility to make sure those things are happening longtime to the future.”
Wednesday’s open house is at Oaklands Mansion on Maney Avenue in Murfreesboro. The next event is a week from today on the campus of MTSU. Both events run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“People’s number one question is how much is the future going to cost me. What am I even paying now? People don’t understand that they have free disposal coming in to Middle Point landfill if you live in Murfreesboro, Rutherford County, and that cost is about to skyrocket as a tax to the community if Middle Point were allowed to close,” said Classen. “The other thing: people are hearing this word ‘trash crisis’ thrown around. We are all over the media. We hear it. I’m saying it, you’re saying it. We’re all saying it. And really, that’s about disposal capacity for waste in Middle Tennessee, we’re running out of it. It’s a major infrastructure need. And so I think that’s really the other piece that people want information about, and we want to start that conversation.”