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Local News

Sullivan roads chief makes bid to bring back brush pickup

August 8th, 2012 3:23 am by J. H. Osborne

BLOUNTVILLE -- With the ink barely dry on a 20 cent hike in the county's property tax rate, and tax bills not yet sent to property owners -- let alone any tax revenues coming in -- some in Sullivan County government appear already to be looking for new ways to spend money.

New old ways, anyway.

Just a little add back.

The tax hike, approved by the Sullivan County Commission just last week, brought the county property tax rate to $2.3307 per $100 of assessed value. All property owners pay that rate to the county, regardless of whether or not they live in a city.

Two cents of the increase was designated for the county's highway department, which provides service only outside the cities -- and not on state roads there.

In total, that means the county's tax rate now includes 7.96 cents for the county highway department, according to the budget document approved by the commission on July 30. That's estimated to bring in over $2.7 million to the county highway department -- most of which will be paid by property owners inside the cities of Kingsport and Bristol.

On Tuesday, County Commissioners Moe Brotherton, Darlene Calton and Terry Harkleroad made public their proposal to once again have the county highway department offer on-request curbside brush pickup to non-city property owners.

Their proposal makes no mention of returning any money to city property owners who won't be able to receive the service.

County Highway Commissioner Terry Shaffer, who a couple of months ago publicly estimated brush pickup was costing the county $200,000 per year, said Tuesday that it only costs the county $20,000 per year. But when pushed by several commissioners to explain the discrepancy, Shaffer ultimately got back to $200,000 total costs -- but he continued to argue that only $20,000 of the cost counts.

Shaffer said he has been under heavy pressure to bring back the brush pickup program, which the County Commission voted in May to end.

Shaffer said he has gotten over 500 calls from people wanting the service reinstated and has been contacted by some county commissioners.

"We raised taxes. We've got the trucks. We've got the two men to pick it up," Shaffer said.

Read the full story in Wednesday's print or enhanced electronic edition of the Times-News.


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