GOP Nominee for Rutherford County Mayor Joe Carr Committed to Renegotiating Contract on Middle Point Landfill

Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Clint Brewer and the GOP nominee for mayor of Rutherford County, Joe Carr, in-studio to talk about his biggest concern, Middle Point Landfill, and his commitment to renegotiating its contract.

          Leahy: In-studio with us, all-star panelist, recovering journalist Clint Brewer. Good morning, Clint.

          Brewer: Good morning.

Leahy: And the GOP nominee for the office of mayor of Rutherford County – the election is two weeks from today – Mr. Joe Carr. Good morning, Joe.

Carr: Good morning, Michael.

Leahy: Joe, What is the biggest issue of growth in Rutherford County?

Carr: I like the way you put the question. The biggest issue of unrestrained growth in Rutherford County is the landfill/congestion and traffic. And they all kind of work together.

But to illustrate the point about the landfill being the most immediate problem, if that was the way you wanted to phrase the question, the most immediate problem is the Middle Point Landfill operated by Republic Services, a private company.

A private company, which is fine. Most of the landfills in Tennessee are private companies and there’s nothing wrong with that.

As a matter of fact, private companies have a tendency to do a better job managing a landfill than local governments. But having said that, this particular landfill is the largest class 1 landfill in the state of Tennessee. Over 70 percent of the trash that is deposited on a daily basis, which is over 5,000 tons a day in that landfill, comes from outside Rutherford County.

Leahy: Outside of Rutherford County?

Carr: With the largest depositor being Davidson County. And so there’s a serious fatigue factor with the fact that the truck traffic, the litter on the highways, the trash, the smell. My 95-acre farm is 10 miles southeast of the landfill. We smell the landfill now.

Leahy: Didn’t it also have another problem lately?

Carr: We had a little fire. It was a little fire. I actually got video of it and posted it and it went viral a little bit and it was pretty unbelievable and it grew.

And the only way – you can’t get fire trucks up there, by the way, because obviously it wasn’t covered and they were in violation of that. And TDEC had to take the appropriate action.

A landfill is required to cover their landfill every day. And this was over the weekend. The landfill caught fire on Sunday, and you could see all the trash laying on top of Mount Trashmore, operated by Republic Services.

I want to make two points real quick: the origin of this problem is a host benefit agreement that originated in 1995 that says explicitly that Rutherford County has no authority, oversight or control over what’s deposited in the landfill, where that trash comes from, and how much is deposited in that land.

Leahy: Sounds like a bad deal.

Carr: It was really bad.

Brewer: But it’s getting to an end, right? Like it’s almost legally full under environmental guidelines at the state level, correct?

Carr: Yes, if what you read is what you believe, it’s been at an end for a while. So we keep having this “it’s only got five to seven years left” … about four years ago they said it had five to seven years.

They’re saying five to seven years. Now, the problem, Clint, is it’s an inexact science determining what “full” is, because capacity is determined by height, width, and breadth. It’s not determined by …

Brewer: But it’s coming to an end. And not just for your county. Your county, it might be positive, but for all these other counties.

What is just broadly the answer to this issue, because it’s going to be an issue for people in Rutherford County. But also what, I think I read something crazy like 25, 26 …

Carr: Thirty-four counties, 34 counties take their trash to Middle Point.

Brewer: Obviously that’s a third of the state.

Carr: It’s Middle Tennessee. Yeah.

Brewer: So, I mean, what is the long-term answer, not just both for Rutherford County and but for everybody?

Carr: I think we need to move away from the idea of regional landfill solutions. That’s my opinion. I think each county has a moral obligation and environmental obligation to have their own landfill.

Now, if one county wants to partner with another county, or maybe two or three counties, that’s fine. But these large regional landfills put an unnecessary and an unfair burden on one community when you structure it like that.

And that is what we have with Middle Point Landfill. And quite honestly, the Republic has before TDEC application to expand the landfill by over 90 acres. So it will extend the life of that landfill by 30-plus.

Leahy: Let me just interject TDEC. Explain what TDEC is.

Carr: I’m sorry. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. And so they are the regulatory agency, you know, this club. But for the listeners, thank you, Michael.

Brewer: If elected, Joe, would you lead a push to have Rutherford County government openly oppose that expansion?

Carr: Absolutely.

Brewer: Is that already in place? Is it already being opposed?

Carr: Yes. And so I have joined Mayor Shane McFarland and Murfreesboro, not only opposing that landfill expansion but forcing Republic to be much more of a good neighbor. Now, there was a time, and I think the door is closing, there was a time where I would have sat down with Republic and renegotiated the contract.

As a matter of fact, I called for renegotiating that contract over a year ago. And what’s funny is all my opponents in this political campaign up to a couple of months ago said that’s not possible.

And then Republic, after the primary – and we talked about this, Michael – after the primary, reached out to me and said, can we have a conversation? I said, sure.

So we meet for two hours and the president of the Southeast Division out of Atlanta says, yeah, we’d be interested in talking to you, Joe, if you’re mayor, about renegotiating the contract.

And so it just shows you that we need more of a business approach and more of an analytical approach, that this is an engineering problem, it’s a business problem, it’s an environmental problem.

And I will promise you every contract can be renegotiated if you exert the proper leverage. And Rutherford County has leverage. They most certainly do.

And that’s what we’re going to do if I become mayor. We’re going to renegotiate this contract. And if not, then we’ll let TDEC and the courts decide, because this thing is in court also.

Brewer: I think you make a really good point. I mean, counties need to be self-sufficient in this regard.

Carr: That is my point.

Brewer: I think that regional solutions, it could be sort of a team effort between, say, Rutherford County, Wilson County, Sumner County or some group of counties like that could co-fund a landfill, not a burden on the residents.

Carr: And then what they do is they then get together and go, okay, we’re going to hire waste management services or we’re going to hire Republic.

Brewer: To operate as a vendor, not an owner.

Carr: That’s correct. As a vendor. You’re exactly correct. And so now there’s accountability and there’s a joint responsibility, and we don’t have either one of those things right now.

Listen to the interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Joe Carr” by Joe Carr. Background Photo “Rutherford County Courthouse” by BrentandMariLynn. CC BY 2.0.







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