Heat of the Summer

editorial-logo3Summer has officially arrived in East Tennessee, and, even though the heat lends itself to lazy days, the meeting schedule is about to pick up again. It is often during the long days of summer, while the general public is sitting around the pool or lake, that the ground work for the year is laid. For the schools, the doors had barely shut for the year before administrative changes were in the works, shocking the handful of parents that were actually aware of shifts. For the students of Rush Strong, it will be new faces in the administrative offices when the new year gears up. And then there are the natural comings and goings that take place in education during the “down” months. Nothing nefarious, just the way a large business, and believe it or not education is a large business, works. This year the state took the carving knife to their contribution to pubic education in Jefferson County, and the local administration cut several positions to make the budget work. The backlash, thus far, has been mainly from the educational community, but that may change when the new school year convenes. Of course, by that time some may have their employment restored, and it may just be another moot point.

For Jefferson County, there are still questions that need to be answered. At the top of my list is the post closure deficit for the landfill. Maybe I am the only person in Jefferson County that sees a problem with a reoccurring audit find in the amount of multi-millions of dollars. How much is multi-millions?

Well, that all depends on the benevolence of the state when-and-if the re-permitting for the landfill comes through. My guess is that the state will not be likely to forgive much, if any, of the debt. Most people in Jefferson County simply don’t know or understand the audit finding, and that is because it is a tricky issue. Basically,when Jefferson County was permitted for the landfill, the state didn’t require the County to take out a bond to cover the post closure costs for when the landfill is full. Instead, the County was supposed to be allocating money toward those post closure costs, and the closer we get to the date that the landfill was projected to be full, the higher the debt climbs: now it is around $4 million, give or take a million.

The local Audit Committee, which is charged by the state with addressing the audit finding, is hoping that the re-permitting process will extend the life of the landfill and stretch out the post closure costs, dropping our current deficit in that area. I believe that we will get the re-permitting done and that it will extend the life of the landfill. But, I highly doubt that the state will lessen the amount that they expect Jefferson County to put aside for post closure. The state got stuck on another landfill closure issue from another County, and I just don’t see them risking it again for Jefferson County. I may be wrong. What I do know is that this is no small matter. The party line in out County seems to be that it is no big deal. Actually, it is a very big deal. The state has the right of withholding funds from Jefferson County until the debt is met, which means no money for roads, education, or any other contribution that the state makes to Jefferson County. To me, it is risky to keep pushing back taking action on this issue. We should be, at the least, showing good faith by formulating a plan to fund the post closure cost: that is more proactive than just asking the state for forgiveness. Anyway, a new member will be selected this summer to sit on the Audit Committee. This should not be a do-nothing committee, and this is an important decision. The committee is small, but the decisions that it will be making could be very, very big.

So, those are just a couple of things to consider as the County takes a couple months vacation. It is great to relax, and everyone needs a little down time to recover from the stresses of life. But, the world keeps turning, and decisions are still made, even in the heat of the summer. A wise woman once said that it is during the heat of the summer that it is easiest to get burned.

Source: K. Depew, News Director

Jefferson Farmers Co-op 08112014