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Council talks green initiatives

Sinclaire Sparkman • Sep 14, 2018 at 9:18 PM

Talk of environmental stewardship led the agenda for the Lebanon City Council’s work session Thursday, where recycling, gasification and a possible grant were discussed at length. 

Scott McRae, manager of Lebanon’s waste-to-energy plant, gave an update on gasification operations. McRae said the plant processes about 32 tons of waste per day with an average of about 210 kilowatts of power generated. The next goal is to get that number increased to 300 kilowatts. The plant discontinued processing tires and seeks ways to use the char produced from the plant as a revenue stream. 

Overall, according to McRae, the plant reduces the carbon footprint of the city and has helped with industry relations. 

Also present at the meeting, John McFadden, president of the nonprofit Tennessee Environmental Council, talked to the council about an $8,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation, that, if matched by the city, would go toward education about recycling and composting. 

Lebanon stormwater coordinator Liana Dranes said she’d like to see the grant used to reach both adults and students, if approved. 

“It’s becoming more and more important all the time that folks become aware of these things,” Dranes said. 

The funding would be used for education, as well as to buy materials for the effort, and the council will need to vote to match the grant’s $8,000 for a $16,000 total. 

Councilors will vote Tuesday on an ordinance to create a monthly sanitation fee of $11 for all residential and commercial customers in the city. For residents who choose to recycle, the fee would be reduced to $9 per home. 

The city’s recycling program currently charges $15 per month for curbside pickup, which includes a cart. 

Some counselors, though on board with recycling, expressed concern about the proposed fee structure. 

“With the tremendous growth that we’re having, this is one of the things we have to talk about now. Every new house that is built we have to furnish sanitation for it. As far as doing this fee in the middle of the budget year, it’s either that or a property tax increase,” Mayor Bernie Ash said. “I prefer the fee going to the user instead of the property tax.”

The sanitation department took on the full weight of the recycling program after its establishment as a pilot program in 2016. After the trial period, which added an extra day of work for sanitation workers, the department was able to hire a new employee to cover recycling. 

As it stands with nearly 700 recycling customers, the program barely breaks even, according to public works director Jeff Baines. 

The council will meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. with a public hearing at 5:55 p.m. at the Town Meeting Hall at 200 N. Castle Heights Ave. in Lebanon. 

Councilors also took a look at a zoning and development requests on the upcoming agenda. A couple of items were made with no recommendation from the planning commission, which city attorney Andy Wright said could create a legal liability. 

“It’s an odd position the planning commission has put us in, sending things with no recommendation when state law requires a recommendation for the city to vote on something,” Wright said. 

 

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