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Recycling Center available to city and county residents; Earth Day event set for Saturday

With recent inquiries from county residents on where to take their recyclables, Keep Blount Beautiful Executive Director Brittney Whipple wants them to know they have a place.

The Blount County Recycling Center, 331 Levi St., Maryville, accepts recycling and household hazardous waste from all Maryville, Alcoa and Blount County residents. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. This service is free to all Blount County residents, she said.

Accepted items for recycling include steel and aluminum cans, rigid plastic, mixed paper, newspaper and corrugated cardboard. Cans, plastic and mixed paper do not need to be separated and all can go in the single-stream bin. There also are bins for newspapers and corrugated cardboard.

The Blount County Recycling Center’s household hazardous waste collection center takes items such as home improvement, automotive and lawn care products. Whipple asks that people view the list of accepted household hazardous waste items before dropping anything off.

Other accepted items include oil-based paint and 4-foot and 8-foot fluorescent bulbs. Latex-based paint will not be accepted and can be dried out and thrown away as normal.

A full list of accepted and unaccepted items can be found at KeepBlount

Beautiful.org under the Resources tab.

The recycling center opened in December 2017 and the household waste facility was added in December 2018. According to the Blount County Highway Department, an average 67,944 pounds of recyclables are collected per month for single stream, cardboard and newspaper, Whipple said. For household hazardous waste, the number is 1,618 pounds per month.

There is also another opportunity to drop off hard-to-recycle items at the annual Earth Day Recycling event, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 17, at First Baptist Church, Maryville. This is a free, drive-thru collection of hard-to-recycle items.

Items will be accepted by E-Cycle of Knoxville, Shred-It, Goodwill, My Frugal Home, the Maryville Lions Club and Keep Blount Beautiful.

These items include: audio/visual equipment, cable and wire, cellphones, computers, flat-screen TVs, printers/scanners, toner, small appliances, fabric, ribbon, mugs, candles, hard-cover Reader’s Digests, magnets, gardening supplies, jeans and board games.

“Each year we see that the need for Earth Day recycling remains constant, and we will continue to provide this service to Blount County,” Whipple said.

For more information, contact Keep Blount Beautiful at 865-681-4809 or keepblount@gmail.com or the Blount County Convenience Center at 865-982-4652.

Blount County Schools budget looks to free principals of copier costs

Blount County Schools hopes to give its individual schools a break on copier costs in the next budget.

A revision to the draft budget for 2021-22 presented during a Blount County Board of Education work session on Thursday, April 15, would spend $175,000 to buy up to 102 new copiers.

Not only would that replace copiers currently under expired five-year leases, but it would eliminate monthly payments from individual school budgets.

Director Rob Britt told the school board those copier costs can equal 40% to 50% of what is raised during an average school fundraiser.

“This is one way we can help our principals focus more on the classroom,” Britt said.

April Herron, now supervisor of special education, told the board when she was principal of Middlesettlements Elementary the monthly payments for two copiers totaled $6,000 a year.

The money for the new copiers would come from the fund balance for Fund 141, previously undesignated funds from the general operating budget.

The school board is to finalize the budget during a called meeting next week, but the state still has not provided an estimate for how much it will send Blount County Schools.

If there is no increase from the state, the current draft budget is nearly $1.9 million more than expected revenue, although it would rely on more than $7 million from the fund balance. Most of the fund balance spending would be for improvements related to converting Eagleton Middle School to the Eagleton College and Career Academy, for grades 6-12.

During the work session, Fiscal Administrator Troy Logan reviewed the line items in the budget other than salaries and benefits, which usually account for more than 80%. With the proposed use of fund balance, pay and benefits are 76.45%.

The other items include costs including utilities and textbooks. BCS has not budgeted any money for library books since the 2017-18 school year.

The draft budget includes a proposed 4% increase for bus transportation, a cost of $365,900.

It also includes step increases and raises for certified staff and classified workers, of 3.6% and 5%, respectively.

Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell accuses Property Assessor Tim Helton of excessive absences

Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell is accusing Property Assessor Tim Helton of being “frequently absent from work for the last few years, to the extent that he has worked approximately 10-20 hours a month.”

Mitchell made the claim in a March 29 letter to the Blount County Board of Commissioners, which Chairman Ron French read aloud during the Thursday, April 15, commission meeting.

Helton did not attend the meeting but told The Daily Times later, “Me caring for my parents comes before my job.”

Mitchell’s letter, which he also sent to the district attorney general and Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, said that Helton receives salary and benefits of more than $125,000 a year.

“This is nothing more than stealing from the citizens and taxpayers of Blount County.”

Helton said, “I’m always available to the staff. ... I’ve got excellent staff that supports me.”

Mitchell also commends the staff of the assessor’s office in the final paragraph of his letter, which says the staff has “gone above and beyond in making sure that the office continues to function and excel each and every day.”

The letter begins by saying Helton did not attend a budget workshop on March 26 because he was home waiting for a refrigerator to be delivered, which the assessor agreed was true. Helton said Deputy Chief Trevor McMurry was capable of delivering the budget request for more than $1.4 million.

Mitchell noted the budget request includes adding a staff person. Helton said that is a clerical position, and his staff is still smaller than when he first was elected to office in 2012.

The mayor says Helton communicating with his staff by cellphone and not other remote work technology is “totally inefficient” when dealing with a staff of 17 for a county with a population of more than 133,000.

“He just doesn’t like the fact that I’m out of the office,” Helton said. “He doesn’t care about why I’m out of the office.”

“The mayor’s out to cut my head off,” said the assessor, adding Mitchell failed to cut taxes after the last reappraisal and has spent money on “plush” offices. “He’s trying to push me out of office.”

French also read a statement calling Helton’s failure to show up for the budget presentation a “travesty.”

Commissioner Mike Akard said he was “appalled” by the allegations.

“I had no idea that this was happening to this degree,” Akard said.

Akard asked Mitchell about possible action, and the mayor said there is no requirement in the state for any elected official to work any set number of hours.

The next election for the assessor’s office is in 2024, but the mayor said, “Citizens can start a petition and ask for a recall.”

“I don’t think a proper recourse is to wait until 2024 before he gets removed from office,” Commissioner Jackie Hill said. “Certainly by his behavior he does not want to be the property assessor.”