Wad­ing into trash:

Cit­i­zens Com­mit­tee rolls up its sleeves on land­fill

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - MERIS LUTZ mlutz@cov­news.com

The county ap­pears to be mak­ing slow progress on its solid waste prob­lems as the cit­i­zens’ panel ded­i­cated to the is­sue con­vened for the first time this week.

The meet­ing was held a day af­ter the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers ap­proved a pro­posal from the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia’s Carl Vin­son In­sti­tute of Gov­ern­ment to fa­cil­i­tate the cit­i­zen land­fill com­mit­tee meet­ings for $12,500.

The com­mis­sion­ers also re­vis­ited the com­mit­tee’s scope of work, with Com­mis­sioner J.C. Hen­der­son voic­ing par­tic­u­lar con­cern for the fate of the re­cy­cling cen­ters. He re­it­er­ated his readi­ness to cast an im­me­di­ate ‘no’ vote on the land­fill pro­posal.

The board even­tu­ally agreed that the cit­i­zen com­mit­tee should pri­or­i­tize weigh­ing the cur­rent pro­posed set­tle­ment be­fore mov­ing on to a more com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the county’s solid waste man­age­ment.

The cit­i­zens’ panel met for the first time Wed­nes­day night to lay the ground­work for what should prove to be two months of in­tense re­search and de­bate. The panel in­cludes Wayne Haynie, Brenda Mullins, Bob Stafford, Denny Dobbs, and Scott Wil­lis.

Haynie, who was elected as chair of the com­mit­tee in light of County Manager Tom Gar­rett’s res­ig­na­tion, de­scribed the meet­ing as a “kick­off-slash-get ac­quainted” ses­sion for com­mit­tee mem­bers.

“As a cit­i­zen, I feel ob­li­gated to step up and help,” said Haynie, who works as the re­gional wa­ter prac­tice manager for Burns & McDon­nell. “Some mem­bers of the com­mit­tee have tech­ni­cal back­grounds, and we come from var­i­ous parts of the county.”

The com­mit­tee was formed by the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers in re­ac­tion to the public out­cry that erupted when the lease agree­ment, part of a pro­posed set­tle­ment, went public ear­lier this year.

Un­der the set­tle­ment, the county would lease its land­fill to a third party op­er­a­tor, Green Hill P3, and use the pay­ments to buy ad­ja­cent land from the East Ge­or­gia Land & Devel­op­ment Com­pany in or­der to pre­vent East Ge­or­gia from su­ing the county for dam­ages and con­struct­ing a pri­vate land­fill. In or­der to make the land­fill more prof­itable, Green Hill would in­crease daily dis­posal rates by four times and could ap­ply to ex­pand the land­fill.

Sharon Sawyer, an­other com­mit­tee mem­ber, said the first meet­ing helped her un­der­stand the na­ture of the law­suit that the county lost, as well as the cur­rent prob­lems plagu­ing the land­fill. A Sawyer ex­pressed par­tic­u­lar con­cern for the res­i­dents of the area near the land­fill, many of whom are el­derly.

“We can’t move the land­fill, but we can make it as safe as pos­si­ble,” she said, adding that the prospect of ex­pand­ing the land­fill was “ter­ri­fy­ing.”

The com­mit­tee dis­cussed what doc­u­ments they would need to re­quest, as well as the ex­perts they would like to con­sult, in­clud­ing John Gard­ner of Smith Gard­ner, and John Poore of La­mar County, which runs a suc­cess­ful land­fill.

The com­mit­tee mem­bers are ex- pect­ing to re­ceive calls from ex­perts at the Carl Vin­son In­sti­tute be­fore the next meet­ing, ten­ta­tively sched­uled for May 7 at 1:30.

Rep­re­sent­ing the in­sti­tute will be Lang­ford D. Hol­brook and at­tor­ney Raye Rawls.

Ac­cord­ing to the BOC-ap­proved pro­posal, Hol­brook has “more than 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with com­mu­ni­ties in plan­ning, ad­min­is­tra­tion and project man­age­ment.” His clients in­clude the City of Perry, City of Amer­i­cus and Sumter County, City of Cony­ers, Gor­dan County, City of Suwa­nee, Athens Down­town Devel­op­ment Author­ity and the Jekyll Is­land Author­ity.

Rawls “works in com­mu­nity lead­er­ship devel­op­ment with a spe­cialty in con­flict res­o­lu­tion.” She has worked for the At­lanta Re­gional Com­mis­sion, the At­lanta Public School Sys­tem, UGA’s Arch­way Project and the 10th Ju­di­cial Dis­trict’s Al­ter­na­tive Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion Pro­gram.

The pro­posal in­cludes a scope of work, out­line for each meet­ing and dead­line of July 31, 2015.

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