Rutherford Neighborhood Alliance is a non partisan, non profit organization that promotes fairness, accountability and equity in government. In an effort to help voters better understand their choices, we sent these five questions to the Republican County Mayor candidates.
2. What, specifically, is your plan for balancing infrastructure and development in the county?
1. What are the 3 most important issues facing Rutherford County and how would you address them?
3. What are your ideas about the future of solid waste management in this county?
4. How would you address the need for affordable workforce housing?
5. What is your plan to bring in higher paying jobs?
Here are there answers (in alphabetical order):
1. What are the 3 most important issues facing Rutherford County and how would you address them? i. GROWTH: Our single greatest challenge is rapid growth. Within Rutherford County there are five different Planning Commissions each with varying regulations, policies and authority. Growth touches everything from how many schools we build, to how many cars are on the road, to the number of homeless families in our community, to the level of crime we are experiencing, to the number of deaths due to overdose and drug use. County government is a subdivision of the state which means we only have the authority to regulate areas specifically granted to us by the State Legislature. Municipalities have more authority than Counties do, but the County has more responsibility to meet statutory obligations for education, public safety and solid waste. We need to improve our coordination and collaboration between the (five) Planning Departments, Civic Leaders and Developers. We need to work closely with other counties facing similar challenges and approach the State Legislature with solutions that will have broad application. ii. SOLID WASTE: It is common knowledge that the Middle Point landfill is nearing the end of its useful life. I oppose a landfill expansion, or a new landfill being permitted. Land in Rutherford County is too valuable to be used for garbage disposal. There are many moving parts to fully address solid waste disposal. Should we establish a Solid Waste Authority and govern this service with a utility board? Besides Murfreesboro, no other city (or RuCo) is in the garbage collection business, nor do they charge a solid waste disposal fee. Should we implement curbside pick-up county-wide? Should we have a set fee for residential? … what about Retail, Food, Commercial or Industrial waste? If we pick up trash curbside countywide, should we implement mandatory recycling at the same time? Once the trash or recycling is collected, where does it go? How is it sorted? How is it transported … truck, rail, both? What costs are associated with the impact of each decision? Step one to solving this problem is addressing it in such a way that the Cities and County are working in synch. Most solid waste solutions require a certain level of volume to make disposal cost effective. If we approach the solution in unity, we will achieve the best result. iii. FRACTURED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN COUNTY AND CITY GOVERNMENT: Currently the relationships between City and County government within Rutherford County is fractured. Many of our City leaders do not feel heard, included or respected. The only way Rutherford County can tackle the many challenges ahead of us is through aligning our interests wherever possible.
2. What, specifically, is your plan for balancing infrastructure and development in the county? One example of the alignment I mentioned previously is the need for road improvements. Traditionally, the county only maintains roads we do not build them. State law prohibits the county from implementing regulations that assist us in pacing growth or having growth help pay for itself. The Cities and the County need to partner on road projects, we need to jointly seek grant funding, and engage developers early in the planning process. There will be some developers who will do the bare minimum expected of them. However, there are many developers who recognize the value of investing in infrastructure beyond their immediate project. We should consider having developers contribute funds to an escrow account for future road work so when the project is needed it isn’t disjointed and pieced together over time, but truly planned in advance. Each community is currently creating independent comprehensive plans and major thoroughfare plans. There is minimal coordination or input between communities. Voluntary cooperation among groups of people who know, like and trust each other will advance our community faster than any regulation or legislation ever could.
3. What are your ideas about the future of solid waste management in this county? The City of Murfreesboro and WastAway are exploring an arrangement whereby solid waste is converted into WastAway’s SE3 fuel. The EPA issued a comfort letter which states combining SE3 (a high-BTU sustainable fuel) with coal is good for the environment and good for extending the life of industrial boiler equipment. WastAway projects 90% of the solid waste stream could be converted into SE3 fuel. TVA officials toured WastAway and discussed the possibility of replacing 20% of their coal in the Gallatin steam plant with SE3 fuel. If this substitution is made it would reduce the carbon footprint of that plant to the equivalence of converting the entire plant to natural gas. SE3 fuel can be used in cement kilns without any costly modifications. Rutherford County is the home to one of the largest cement companies in the nation. I shared the EPA Comfort letter with Mike Hollingshead. He stated he would like to establish a cement kiln in Middle Tennessee and is interested in learning more about the SE3 fuel option. As a result of this conversation, Smyrna Ready Mix, Town of Smyrna, City of Murfreesboro and WastAway have scheduled a meeting to discuss the potential of this idea. These conversations are in the early stages but appear to be promising. This type of innovation can completely transform the solid waste industry.
4. How would you address the need for affordable workforce housing? The need for affordable workforce housing is a regional issue for the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area. When one community implements housing policies the impact is felt in a neighboring county. A recent example is Williamson County’s “town and country zoning” for five acre minimum lots in the rural area in addition to their unique ability based on their private acts to charge developers an education impact fee. The result of these changes is pushing Williamson County developers out to neighboring communities where higher density with lower cost is permitted. Ideally, we need relief from the State Legislature to manage our growth better. I discussed this issue with John Floyd (Ole South Properties), Michael Skipper (Greater Nashville Regional Council) and multiple Planning Directors. It is clear to me there is no easy answer to this question. It appears we will need to launch an exhaustive search of best practices within the housing industry and seek out models that warrant closer examination.
5. What is your plan to bring in higher paying jobs? The Mayor needs to work closely with the Chamber of Commerce, the Industrial Development Board and the Greater Nashville Regional Council. We need to have a complete inventory of our county’s strengths and showcase what we do well. We need to support Rutherford Works (Industry and Education partnership) to grow a talented workforce that responds to employer needs. Establish Rutherford County as a “work ready” community by expanding the ACT WorkKeys in high school and post-secondary education. This designation demonstrates to employers that Rutherford County has an educated workforce. An effective Mayor will seek partnerships among industry, educational & civic leaders. The Mayor needs to see the entire landscape when evaluating community needs and setting priorities. Through unimpeached integrity, the Mayor's role is to preserve, protect and elevate Rutherford County citizens at every opportunity
1. What are the 3 most important issues facing Rutherford County and how would you address them? 1) Unrestrained Growth 2) Middle Point Landfill 3) Congestion & Growth Time and space don't permit me to share with you in any detail my solutions. However, I do have a Facebook Live Chat every Monday evening at 7pm where we discuss these very issues.
2. What, specifically, is your plan for balancing infrastructure and development in the county? Impact fees need to pay for the "impact" of any new development. Property taxes should not be negatively impacted to support the impact of new growth.
3. What are your ideas about the future of solid waste management in this county? Middle Point Landfill needs to be a Rutherford County ONLY solution.
4. How would you address the need for affordable workforce housing? I would work with local developers and builders.
5. What is your plan to bring in higher paying jobs? Rutherford County currently has a worker shortage. There are more jobs available than people to fill those positions. Until the labor shortage eases, current market forces limit what the government should and can do. Higher paying jobs also create inflationary pressures and put stress on affordable housing.
• What are the 3 most important issues facing Rutherford County and how would you address them? While I feel there are several challenges that face Rutherford County, the 3 most important ones that must be addressed first are growth, public safety, and public education. Growth needs to be planned on rather than reacting to it. Rutherford county is one of the fastest growing areas in the country and it’s going to continue to grow because of our great schools and convenience to interstate systems and lowest housing cost in the region. With the minimum impact fees that builders pay on housing, it is hardly enough to pay for the upgrades needed for infrastructure improvements. As Rutherford County continues to grow, we need to budget for increased pay and seek grants for our police, fire and medical personnel. We must retain our employees and continue to keep drugs and crime out of our communities and keep our schools safe. Another challenge we face is making sure we get enough funding per student to cover the cost of education. I will continue to petition the state and local legislature to secure more funding so that tax payers do not have to cover the expenses that would normally be covered by federal allocation.
• What, specifically, is your plan for balancing infrastructure and development in the county? My specific plan to bring balance to this issue is to petition for infrastructure improvements and improve basic services and provide amenities prior to the development of subdivisions and apartments. I believe in preserving Rutherford County first and I will stand firm with the people to maintain the natural beauty of the county for the current citizens and those to come.
• What are your ideas about the future of solid waste management in this county? Solid waste has always been a problem for Rutherford County ever since the county made a deal from Republic Waste Services “formally BFI” to create Middle Point landfill. Over the years republic has been allowed to bring waste into Rutherford County from different areas around Middle Tennessee and from different areas of the country. Its time to implement new ideas to eliminate trash and possibility to entertain the idea of incineration. With the advances made in technology 75% of our trash can be recycled. There needs to be zero tolerance on waste. The time is now to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Aaron Coffey for Rutherford County Mayor
• How would you address the need for affordable workforce housing? Is there really an answer to address affordable housing in this day and age. What is affordable? With the housing bubble in today’s economy, it is almost impossible to provide housing for low-income families. Housing should be affordable for everyone. Providing permanent housing is, by far, the least expensive way to provide shelter for those who need it, as shown in a nine- city study from the Lewin Group (and research by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Alliance to End Homelessness and other groups). Without it, people end up in overcrowded apartments, homeless shelters, hospitals, institutions for the mentally or physically disabled, jails or on the street. Each of these alternatives costs taxpayers substantially more than paying for permanent places to live. For example, $10,000 in public funding covers 10+ months of permanent affordable housing but only 6+ months in a shelter or one week in a hospital. A right to housing is given in much of the rest of the world. Besides that, it is socially responsible and gives children a good start in life.
• What is your plan to bring in higher paying jobs? My plan to bring better paying jobs to Rutherford County goes along with my plan to improve basic services, infrastructure and by providing amenities. Rutherford County collects enough revenue annually to cover these improvement cost. With these improvements we can attract talent to this area. Talent attracts employers who are willing to pay competitive wages to hire these individuals. We must exploit our County as a good place for companies to build by offering incentives and tax breaks and by deregulation. We must exemplify our global competitiveness. We need to elect and appoint visionary leaders. With these things and providing good data that tells a story about our cities, we can attract companies that are willing to pay top wages for talent in our county.
1. What are the 3 most important issues facing Rutherford County and how would you address them? Growth is all encompassing, but Solid Waste, Traffic congestion, and Education. We have been working for the last 3 ½ years to identify who out there has the best solution to handle our waste for the next 25 years. We have identified Pratt Recycling out of Conyers, GA. They want to locate a building here in Rutherford County to take all recyclables. All plastic bottles will go to a company in Dalton, GA. to make carpet. Pratt is the 5th largest recycler of corrugated cardboard in the world. They make all of Amazon’s boxes. Rockwood in Lebanon, TN. will take all of our C & D products. This will eliminate 40% of our waste stream going into the landfill. I have looked at Bus-on-shoulder operations, and HOT Lanes but I still think a mass transportation system such as a monorail down the middle of T-24 all the way to Nashville greatly needs to be explored. A P-3 (Public Private Partnership) needs to be implemented. I have talked and visited in Montreal, Canada, at Bombardiers about manufacturing the monorail and being a partner with us. We will also have to work closely with the cities on congestion because most streets are inside the city. Working with the School Board and keeping up with the classroom demand is imperative. By looking for new and better ways of construction, liquid acrylic roofing systems, etc. This helps us save money so it can be spent on new construction.
2. What, specifically, is your plan for balancing infrastructure and development in the county? Working with the Planning Board to look approving larger lots instead of approving higher density lots. Working with Consolidated Utility District to jointly apply for Grants for new water lines in areas that still do not have water. Working with MTE and United Communications to get broadband coverage throughout Rutherford County.
3. What are your ideas about the future of solid waste management in this county? Answered in Question #1.
4. How would you address the need for affordable workforce housing? I am currently working with United Church Homes out of Ohio. They are in the Nursing Home business but have recently engaged in building workforce housing projects. They currently run and manage Community Care of Rutherford County. We have additional land at CCRC. We are Looking to build a Work Force Affordable Housing at the location.
5. What is your plan to bring in higher paying jobs? Working through the Chamber of Commerce, The State of Tennessee Department of Education, Better Business Bureau, Destination Rutherford & Smyrna, Rutherford County Airport Authority, MTSU, Motlow, and GNRC are all contact that will be engaged with to attract and bring to Rutherford County higher paying jobs.
To view these at our website or learn more about RNA visit https://www.rutherfordneighborhoodalliance.org/