The second reading of an ordinance that would provide rules and regulations for the operation of a landfill within the city limits of Crab Orchard is on hold while lawyers with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service review the proposal and make further recommendations and changes.

Surplus County Property, Inc. has requested permission to operate a landfill in the old rock quarry a mile from the town center. A public hearing on that question is set for Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Crab Orchard Town Hall, 338 Hebbertsburg Rd.

Mayor Emmit Sherrill said, "We had to vote on this before with nothing in place. I mean nothing, leaving the city wide open to whatever would happen. This would give us something to fall back on."

Mayor Sherrill said MTAS will return the ordinance within the next week and, when received, a special called meeting will be scheduled so that the council can consider the second reading.

The ordinance has had several changes, including removing the provision outlawing Class I and Class II landfills. Under state law, the city can only decide if it will allow a landfill within it's municipal limits, but the state would determine what type of waste a landfill could be permitted to accept.

Joe Sherrill said, "If we say yes to a landfill, the current law doesn't allow us to restrict that landfill. There are proposals to TDEC [Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation] to change that, but that won't be in place for a while. If we say yes, we can't bind this beast."

The ordinance would prohibit expansion of a landfill beyond the fill area described in the original permit issued to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation without the approval of the town council.

The impact fee was reduced from $12 per ton of waste received to $6 per ton, due each month.

Joe Sherrill said the revenue from tipping fees could be used by the city to work toward major projects for the city, including a possible sewer system, and to help obtain matching grant funds from the state and other government loan programs. However, population is a part of formulas that determine the city's revenue from state-shared taxes and to help qualify for grant programs.

"The city could be a ghost town, but the city won't go away," Joe Sherrill said. "But with a population of one, the state revenues will not be much. We don't want to run people off."

However, those projects were just suggestions by the economic development committee. No possible revenue has been earmarked by the town council.

The original ordinance would have prohibited truck traffic on Sundays and restricted hauling to daylight hours, but there were questions about how that could be enforced and possible legal questions regarding other businesses that may have truck traffic.

"I do know there are good sides to this whole thing, and there are bad sides," Joe Sherrill said. "We do need the city to come out with the win, along with the people and the company. We don't need anybody to lose as we go forward. If they don't go forward, that's a different story, but we don't want to have a losing situation for the city."

The council set to rule on the state Jackson Law this month, which requires local governments to approve a landfill application prior to the state considering operation permits, etc. The Jackson Law requires consideration of the type of waste to be disposed of; method of disposal; projected impact on surrounding areas from noise and odor; projected impact on property values; adequacy of existing roads and bridges; economic impact on the county, city or both; compatibility with existing development or zoning plans; and other factors which may affect the public health, safety and welfare.

Some have questions regarding the environmental impact of a landfill operation at the site, especially considering the cave systems running under the surface.

"With hydrogeology of Crab Orchard, is such that this is a sink hole," said Jean Cheely. "There's conduits. There's water running all under this land and you know that every time it rains."

Some in the audience balked at considering what the city should do if a landfill is approved, saying the vast majority of the citizens were opposed to a landfill.

"Why not talk about what we do if we turn it down," said a man who declined to provide his name to the Chronicle and did not identify himself during the meeting. "If this is not a front-loaded gun, I don't know what is."

Joe Sherrill noted the economic development committee conducted a survey of the community and found 90 percent of those surveyed were against allowing a landfill operation.

"We need to take control of our environment with a loud and resounding no thank you," the man continued.