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Ruritans disagree with commissioners’ comments, but claims in question

Washington College Ruritans took issue with recent discussions among county commissioners regarding the convenience center operation on their property in Limestone, but their claims are being disputed.
A five-year lease agreement in place since the 1980s for the convenience center on Bill West Road expired in June, and Public Works Committee members talked about looking at other options during their Dec. 1 meeting.
The issue was referred to Public Works during the November commission meeting with a request to evaluate the terms of the agreement that have Washington County paying a $1 annual lease for the property and providing the labor and equipment to operate the convenience center, while all sales from recyclables go to the Ruritan Club.
“The only equipment at the convenience center that belongs to Washington County is the compactor,” Ruritan President Patrick Loyd said Monday morning during an interview he requested with the Herald & Tribune to clarify inaccuracies in last week’s article.
Solid Waste Director Charles Baines disagreed, adding identification tags are secured to each of the multiple pieces of equipment at the center that are tracked and included in the county’s inventory.
Loyd also said Ruritan volunteers who work on Mondays when the convenience center is closed and after business hours handle all of the sorting, prepping and loading of the cans, aluminum, plastics, batteries, glass, newspapers and cardboard that are dropped off at the center.
“I pay a man 40 hours a week and a part-time person three days a week to bale all of the cardboard and cans,” Baines said in response.
While Loyd didn’t know the amount, he said the Ruritan Club pays the county to transport the metal recyclables to Omnisource in Kingsport.
Again, Baines begged to differ. “We used to haul the metal to Omnisource for free until we finally told them to have the trucks come to the convenience center,” he said, which is the practice that continues today. “The club has never paid us for anything.”
According to Loyd, the estimate of the club’s receiving $5,000-$7,000 per month in sales from recyclables is inflated.
“The club averages $40,000 per year in recycling sales,” he said, which is closer to $3,000 per month. “We had one high six or seven years ago that ran $50,000 when (sales) prices were higher.”
Subtracted from those proceeds are maintenance on the equipment and liability insurance on the property and equipment.
“That’s a good example of an expense that comes out of the proceeds,” club secretary Barbara Wall said, referring to the liability insurance. “We would carry it, but the insurance is higher because other people are working on the property.”
Loyd also argues club members never lost interest, which was stated during the Public Works Committee meeting.
“We used to be there every day when the county allowed us to come on-site during working hours,” he said.
Loyd said the Ruritan Club agreed to allow the county to place dumpsters on its property in 1988. “We saw that (some of) the trash being brought in could be recycled so we started sorting it,” he said.
Wall said the club was something of a pioneer at that time. “When you think about what was going on in the ‘80s, there was no push for recycling,” she noted.
The majority of proceeds from recycling sales goes back into the community, Loyd said, through programs that assist residents with medical bills, provide food for families and purchase bicycles for children that are distributed through churches.
While Loyd said the Ruritans are willing to meet with commissioners at any time, a review of meeting minutes going back to the early 1990s do not indicate any formal conversation every being held about a change in the agreement.
“Maybe a different leasing arrangement should be considered, but there are not many places where the county is going to be able to put trash in someone’s backyard,” he said.
Loyd and Wall said they would need more information on how the county’s other four convenience centers are operating and the items they are selling before they could comment on why the arrangement at Washington College is justified.
“We want to be involved in our community and want to keep it clean,” Loyd said.