Knox County Opts to Not Renew Mulch Contract

Knox County is getting out of the mulch business.

The county engineering and solid waste directors have sent a letter to Natural Resources Recovery notifying them that the contract, which ends July 31, will not be renewed. NRR had a contract with Knox County to take brush and convert it into commercial grade mulch and sell it. When the contract came up for renewal last time, it was discovered that royalties to the county had not been paid. NRR argued that the money owed the county was forgiven by the late John Evans, who had been director of solid waste, due to problems involved in setting up the operation. Solid waste is in the engineering department and Bruce Wuethrich, former head of the department, said he was unaware of the deal for the county not to receive payments.

After much controversy and several lawsuits, the contract with NRR was extended until next July.

Dwight Van de Vate, who now heads engineering for County Mayor Tim Burchett, and Tom Salter, who heads solid waste, will use the time between now and July to determine what the county will do with brush to prevent it from going to the landfill. One option is to collect the brush and collect a "tipping" fee up front, which will cover the county's cost. Then the brush could be ground up and made available to the public or to a private business that wants to buy it and finish the conversion to mulch. Some system will have to be worked out to prevent brush and leaves taking up space in the county landfill.

The letter to NRR also has several photos attached of logs, pallets, tires and debris and warns that all such material will have to be removed before the contract runs out. The county will prepare a punch list and an inspection will be conducted to see that the site is cleared, according to the letter.