SWMA ap­proves bond res­o­lu­tion by nar­row vote

The Covington News - - LOCAL - DAR­RYL WELCH dwelch@cov­news.com

The New­ton County Solid Waste Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity (SWMA) voted 3-2 to au­tho­rize prepa­ra­tions for a $25 mil­lion bond is­suance Thurs­day night.

The votes to ap­prove the bond is­suance were cast by the three elected mem­bers of the au­thor­ity, Board of Com­mis­sion­ers (BOC) Chair­man Mar­cello Banes and Com­mis­sion­ers Nancy Schulz and Lanier Sims. Cit­i­zen mem­bers Bob Stafford and Phil Wise voted against the mea­sure.

County Pub­lic In­for­ma­tion Of­fi­cer Bryan Fazio pro­vided a break­down of what the $25 mil­lion will go for:

Re­fi­nanc­ing of GEFA (Ge­or­gia En­vi­ron­men­tal Fi­nance Au­thor­ity) loan - $3,380,557

Ex­ca­va­tion and Recla­ma­tion Phase 1 at the land­fill – $9,927,821

Land­fill Ac­qui­si­tion - $10,212,215

To­tal - $23,420,593 Ac­cord­ing to Fazio, the re­main­der of the money from the bond is­suance will go to­ward pay­ing fees as­so­ci­ated with the is­suance of the bonds.

Fazio said the SWMA is a sep­a­rate en­tity from the BOC and there­fore pur­chased the land­fill from the county.

He said the money gen­er­ated by the land­fill sale will be used by the county to pay the set­tle­ment with East Ge­or­gia Land and De­vel­op­ment Com­pany. The set­tle­ment was ne­go­ti­ated and signed April 10.

Bond Coun­sel Roger Mur- ray told the mem­bers that the sole se­cu­rity for the bonds is the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Agree­ment (IGA) be­tween the BOC and the SWMA. He said the bonds are be­ing sold on the ba­sis the county will agree to pay the au­thor­ity the amount suf­fi­cient to pay prin­ci­ple and in­ter­est on the bonds as it comes due.

Mur­ray said un­der a pro­posed amend­ment to the IGA, the au­thor­ity agrees, to the ex­tent funds are avail­able, it will make pay­ments on the bonds.

SWMA Chair­man Wayne Haynie told mem­bers he dis­agrees with the bond is­suance. He called the plan un­fair, reck­less and un­nec­es­sar­ily con­fus­ing.

“The law­suit with East Ge­or­gia Land De­vel­op­ment vs New­ton County has been a 20-year marathon and ac­tu­ally the pace to set­tle it now amounts to a 40-yard dash. We’re ask­ing that a dif­fer­ent en­tity, the Solid Waste Au­thor­ity, is­sue debt to rem­edy a law­suit that we’re not even a party to,” he said.

“The rate pay­ers should not bear the cost of that le­gal set­tle­ment. And that’s what’s left us at this place. This is def­i­nitely an un­com­fort­able rush to set­tle the case and the Solid Waste Au­thor­ity ap­pears the con­ve­nient out­let.”

Haynie sug­gested that the law­suit could be han­dled with a struc­tured set­tle­ment and asked that the SWMA be cut loose from the le­gal set­tle­ment and al­lowed to get on with the busi­ness of solid waste, or be abol­ished.

“This is not what we envi- sioned our mission to be,” he said, “it’s pretty ob­vi­ous that our non-Board of Com­mis­sioner mem­bers have ques­tioned their role with two very thought­ful, valu­able mem­bers have de­parted.”

Schulz dis­agreed with Haynie’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the bond is­sue.

“Coun­sel came be­fore this body prior to ne­go­ti­at­ing the set­tle­ment with East Ge­or­gia and asked for our ap­proval mov­ing for­ward, in­di­cat­ing that a bond is­sue would be part of a ne­go­ti­a­tion to re­pay the set­tle­ment,” she said.

“This body agreed to that. I think if we do not move for­ward with what we, in good faith, agreed to then we’re a body that’s not op­er­at­ing in good faith and we’ve let our le­gal coun­sel down. We’ve let the cit­i­zens down be­cause a set­tle­ment was made based on our agree­ment with a bond is­suance.

Wise asked about the pos­si­bil­ity of de­lay­ing the vote un­til more in­for­ma­tion could be ob­tained.

County Man­ager Lloyd Kerr told the au­thor­ity the county is un­der pres­sure from the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion (EPD) to start work on the ex­ca­va­tion and recla­ma­tion at the land­fill. He said the bonds would be used as the source of funds for that work.

“You all know the recla­ma­tion has to be done. We’re un­der a con­sent or­der to do so,” he said.

The next sched­uled meet­ing of the SWMA is June 15.

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