BOC votes to elim­i­nate Green Hill from con­sid­er­a­tion

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

The New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted down a con­tro­ver­sial pro­posal to lease the county land­fill to a pri­vate startup Wed­nes­day night fol­low­ing pas­sion­ate tes­ti­mony from the af­fected com­mu­nity, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and con­cerned cit­i­zens.

The au­di­ence erupted in cheers as two out of three com­mis­sion­ers voted to "elim­i­nate Green Hill P3 from con­sid­er­a­tion in the process of de­ter­min­ing the fu­ture of our New­ton County solid waste dis­posal site."

The mo­tion made by Dis­trict 1 Com­mis­sioner John Dou­glas also in­structed a citizen solid waste panel cre­ated to study the is­sue to "con­tinue with their ef­forts... to pro­tect the Spring Hill com­mu­nity, stop the loss of rev­enue... and... find a model of how to man­age our solid waste dis­posal site and/or search out other com­pa­nies that may be will­ing to pro­vide a bid for ser­vices to New­ton County."

Dis­trict 2 Com­mis­sioner Lanier Sims voted in fa­vor of Dou­glas' mo­tion, with Dis­trict 5 Com­mis­sioner J.C. Hen­der­son vot­ing against it.

Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz left Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing early but ex­pressed sup­port for

Dou­glas’ mo­tion be­fore her de­par­ture. Com­mis­sioner Le­vie Mad­dox was not present.

In ad­di­tion to tak­ing over op­er­a­tion of and up­grades to the county land­fill, Green Hill was also of­fer­ing to re­solve a law­suit with the East Ge­or­gia Land & De­vel­op­ment Com­pany, which, in 2014, won a 17-year le­gal bat­tle for doc­u­men­ta­tion from the county that would al­low it to ap­ply to build a pri­vate land­fill on a large tract it had ac­quired next to the county land­fill.

East Ge­or­gia an­nounced Wed­nes­day that it would move for­ward with plans to build a pri­vate land­fill and seek dam­ages from the county fol­low­ing Green Hill's de­ci­sion to pull its pro­posal be­fore Wed­nes­day's vote.

Op­po­nents of Green Hill P3 far out­num­bered the few who spoke out in fa­vor of an amended pro­posal from the com­pany that would have granted the Spring Hill com­mu­nity, which is lo­cated next to the land­fill, a park with ameni­ties, in­clud­ing a com­mu­nity cen­ter.

"We feel in­sulted that Green Hill would think that of­fer­ing a park, com­mu­nity cen­ter and a 50-acre par­cel of land would off­set them bring­ing in triple the trash," said Ege­niece Lackey, who lives in Spring Hill and re­cently bought land there to build her "dream home."

Lackey went on to say that the lo­cal com­mu­nity should not have to pay the price for the "mis­man­age­ment" of the land­fill or the fact that the county lost the East Ge­or­gia law­suit.

"We, the Spring Hill com­mu­nity, de­mand that you re­pair and cor­rect the ex­ist­ing prob­lems at the land­fill" and ex­plore green op­tions, she said. "If the county is not ca­pa­ble of han­dling their land­fill and their law­suit, we, the Spring Hill com­mu­nity, want the county to open the process so that com­pa­nies other than Green Hill can present their pro­pos­als on how they would make cor­rec­tions and han­dle our fu- ture waste."

Lackey then asked those in agree­ment to stand, leav­ing very few in their seats.

Other speak­ers ac­cused Green Hill of "di­vi­sive" tac­tics that pit fam­ily mem­bers against each other in its cam­paign to gain sup­port in Spring Hill.

Those in fa­vor of Green Hill's amended pro­posal ex­pressed skep­ti­cism to­ward the county based on its history. The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion has ap­proved a cor­rec­tive ac­tion plan for ground­wa­ter and air con­tam­i­na­tion at the land­fill, but the county has made lit­tle if any progress to­wards com­plet­ing the first step, which must be done by 2017.

"It was ei­ther Green Hill or the county, and the county has had this prob­lem for 20 years and hasn't done any­thing," said Charles John­son. "Who­ever comes in, they are not go­ing to do any­thing for this com­mu­nity."

Speak­ing af­ter the vote, Rev­erend David John­son said the only op­tion that had been pre­sented was Green Hill’s, and took is­sue with what he said was the com­mis­sion­ers’ fail­ure to com­mu­ni­cate.

“When you let the peo­ple know what’s go­ing on, you don’t have this type of en­vi­ron­ment,” he said, re­fer­ring to the evening’s heated ex­changes. “When you sit and you’re do­ing things and don’t re­turn peo­ple’s phone calls and keep things to your­self, what do you ex­pect to hap­pen?”

John­son said the com­mu­nity was in need of prayer to over­come the bit­ter­ness of the past few months and find a so­lu­tion.

Tonya Bechtler, chair of the Yel­low River Wa­ter Trail, said she was "ex­tremely ex­cited" about the board's de­ci­sion.

"The di­vi­sive­ness and the tox­i­c­ity of Green Hill has been over­whelm­ing, and it's been a dis­trac­tion to ac­tu­ally find­ing so­lu­tions to the prob­lems,” said Bechtler.

Of East Ge­or­gia’s law­suit, she said: “New­ton County doesn’t bow down to bul­lies.”

She also called for new le­gal coun­sel to rep­re­sent the county.

Mayor Ar­line Chap­man of Por­terdale, an out­spo­ken op­po­nent of the Green Hill plan, was also pleased with the vote.

“I think that the county com­mis­sion­ers heard the voice of the peo­ple and they have re­sponded, and that is very, very en­cour­ag­ing,” she said.

Nei­ther Tee Stri­b­ling of Green Hill nor the Min­is­ters Union, which had threat­ened to march in sup­port of Green Hill, were in at­ten­dance.

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