Wading into trash:
Citizens Committee rolls up its sleeves on landfill
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.