Revisiting Convenience Centers suggested
Late in Tuesday night’s marathon Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, two members suggested the county’s Solid Waste Management Authority (SWMA) revisit the Convenience Center policy to determine if the centers left open work best for the county, while another two expressed concerns about how the public has been informed about the changes.
“We really need to take a look at the centers that we have determined are going to remain open and determine if those are the still the ones we want to keep open, or if we need to alter some of them,” District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz said.
She cited the center on Stone Road, which she said is difficult to get into and out of.
“I think we’re still in an evaluation phase,” she said. “I’m not saying we are going to open more centers, we’re going to keep the same number. We just need to look at if we made the correct decision on the proper location of the centers. I think that’s still a work in progress.”
District 5 Commissioner Ronnie Cowan asked the SWMA to look at its policy on the centers.
“I would just ask my colleagues that are on the Solid Waste Authority to revisit that policy on those,” he said. “I had several calls from people who live nearby those convenience centers and the volume of traffic since we closed some of the centers has doubled around these people’s homes. More people are going to fewer centers.
“As a result, we’ve got some trucks that are uncovered and in these particular areas, there was a lot more trash going up and down the road.”
District 1 Commissioner Stan Edwards said he has heard citizen complaints about communication about which centers were closed and which were left open.
“I’ve gotten numerous complaints from the convenience center issues about our communication about what was left open and what was closed,” he said. “Not just from one particular person, but from several from my district over the last couple of months.
“I think our communication has to start at those convenience centers when we do something that impacts those centers,” he said. “Our communication has to start there and work out.”
District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims echoed Edward’s concerns.
“We need to get some type of explanation on why signs weren’t put up. It just seems that nothing was planned,” he said. “We need an explanation so we can have answers for our citizens.
“People are running around trying to figure out which center to go to. We’ve got to do a better job.”
Schulz, Sims and BOC Chairman Marcello Banes are also members of the SWMA.
Citing safety concerns, members also deferred action on a proposal to change a county ordinance prohibiting out of county solid waste from being dumped at the Newton County landfill.
The ordinance change, if approved, would have given specific permission “for out of county solid waste to be disposed of at any County operated landfill when (i) such waste can be safely and legally used as landfill cover material; and (ii) such waste has been accepted for use as landfill cover material by the entity responsible for managing the landfill.”
The proposal, presented by attorney Sam VanVolkenburgh, would have allowed the landfill to accept waste from Pratt Industries in Conyers.
“Pratt Industries, a paper mill in Conyers, has offered to dispose of certain materials generated as byproducts from the paper mill at the landfill,” he said.
VanVolkenburgh said normally the landfill would not consider accepting material from out of county but this material can be used productively as an additive to cover.
“So it wouldn’t actually be treated as solid waste. It would be used as cover,” he said.
VanVolkenburgh said the concern is if the material can be used for cover safely.
“I understand that Kevin Walter (Solid Waste Manager) has spoken to the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) of the State and they think it can probably be used safely, but they would like some testing done,” he said.
Sims said an ordinance change now was “putting the cart before the horse.”
“I can’t honestly vote for something until I get something in writing saying that this is safe,” he said. “At that point, I’d be willing to look at modifying our out of county waste.
“But until we’ve got something saying this is safe, I don’t see why we’d approve this tonight when we don’t have an idea.”
VanVolkenburgh told commissioners the ordinance change was expressly conditional on the ability to legally and safely use the material for cover.
Edwards said he was not in favor of bringing waste from out of the county.
“I’m not in favor of bringing anything from outside the county. I don’t care if it’s gold,” he said. “I don’t see me supporting this at all.
“If we need land cover, don’t we have some land adjacent to the landfill we can pull soil from?”
County Manager Lloyd Kerr said there is available dirt to be used for cover, but the ordinance change would be beneficial to the SWMA.
“The advantage this would give to the Solid Waste Authority is twofold. One, the fact that we could collect tipping fees,” he said. “Secondly, if we were to have this coming in on a regular basis, it would reduce the amount of cover that we would have to dig and haul which would make the operation a little more efficient.”
Kerr said the ordinance change had the potential to generate $500,000 - $$750,000 annually for the landfill.
Cowan said commissioners did not need to be in a hurry to make the ordinance change.
“We don’t have to be in a hurry for this right now,” he said,” this is something we can do a year from now, two years from now. Pratt is going to be looking for a place to get rid of that stuff at any time.
“We’ve got other issues, I think, at the landfill. We’ve got to put together a new solid waste authority and get it functioning and get some clear direction on our solid waste management.”
Commissioners voted to table the issue indefinitely.
The convenience center at Cook Road remains closed.