Sullivan commissioner defers action on brush pickup

J. H. Osborne • Sep 18, 2012 at 4:06 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Commissioner Moe Brotherton's neighbors and other constituents will have to keep burning their leaves and brush for at least another month.

Brotherton, fighting what appeared to be an uphill battle, agreed Monday to defer action on his resolution to re-launch a former curbside brush pickup service by the county's highway department.

That means it won't come back for a possible vote by the full Sullivan County Commission until at least Oct. 15.

Based on comments from county commissioners Monday -- along with the fact it's only been a few months since the commission voted to end the old program -- things don't look good for it gaining approval even then.

But Brotherton agreed to defer action after several commissioners said they want to hear more about alternative ways to offer the service, such as establishment of a public works department or through some sort of fee-based program where only users would pay the necessary costs.

State law requires that the total costs of anything done by the highway department -- that's not road related -- be paid back, dollar for dollar, to the highway department by the county's general fund.

That money trail has never been established on the county's books when the county highway department has provided curbside brush pickup to some county residents in the past.

Interim County Highway Commissioner Terry Shaffer estimated it was costing county taxpayers $200,000 per year to provide curbside brush pickup in recent years.

The service was not available to all county residents -- and was not available to any city residents -- although all county residents, including those in the cities, were being taxed to help fund it.

Brotherton has said the service is especially needed in the Colonial Heights area, where he said he has neighbors "piling it up and burning it" because the county doesn't provide curbside pickup.

"You vote against this, you're voting against clean air," Brotherton said.

County Attorney Dan Street has repeatedly told county commissioners there's no legal argument to support inviting the public to pile brush on the right of way and then say state law requires the right of way to be kept clear by the highway department.

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