Com­plaints con­tinue on Grady Road Land­fill

Com­mis­sioner cites past con­tract amend­ment that “in­creased our ton­nage but low­ered our in­come.”

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By KEVIN MYRICK SJ Ed­i­tor

Ed Burn­ley has time and again come be­fore the Polk County Com­mis­sion to ex­press his com­plaints and con­cerns about the Grady Road Land­fill.

His po­si­tion on the grow­ing land­fill hasn’t changed: he op­poses it.

“This land­fill has stunk since 1990,” Burn­ley be­gan his com­ments dur­ing the Fe­bru­ary work ses­sion. “It has been hushed up. The com­mis­sion­ers know what is go­ing on.”

He cited the sign­ing of agree­ments in the early 2000s and the fact no one had con­tacted him, since he is a Grady Road res­i­dent, about the abil­ity to com­ment on the con­tract.

“The chair­man (at the time) Billy Cro­ker said we’d be in­formed when it is ex­panded,” Burn­ley said. “When I knew it ex­panded, I saw it.”

How­ever dur­ing Fe­bru­ary’s work ses­sion, he di­rectly ad­dressed com­ments made dur­ing a pre­vi­ous meet­ing by County At­tor­ney Brad McFall.

McFall had cited Burn­ley when ad­dress­ing fi­nan­cial con­cerns raised over the amount of money the land­fill was gen­er­at­ing for the county gov­ern­ment’s cof­fers.

Burn­ley said “we aren’t get­ting what we’re do, be­cause we signed an amend­ment, Amed­n­ment No. 1, which cut it in half,” he said. “It was stupid.... there’s no money to steal. We aren’t get­ting it.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, he pro­vided five dif­fer­ent things county com­mis­sion­ers could do im­me­di­ately to pro­vide im­prove­ments at the land­fill that would make lives bet­ter for those res­i­dents who live around it. Among those, he called for the county to re­quire cov­er­ing of any ar­eas cur­rently in use when op­er­a­tions are over for the day, along with ad­dress­ing the smell and vul­ture prob­lem. He also wants com­mis­sion­ers to cut taxes for those who live on Grady Road.

He also wanted the com­mis­sion to have to meet at the Mur­phy Harpst Chil­dren’s Cen­ter build­ings on Grady Road so they might see the prob­lem first hand and “tell the news­pa­per how deep we are in the post clo­sure costs.”

“And my last sug­ges­tion: get a new county at­tor­ney,” Burn­ley said be­fore leav­ing the podium..

Quick to re­spond to Burn­ley was Com­mis­sion Hal Floyd, serv­ing this year as vice chair for the board. He came into of­fice promis­ing to look into the land­fill sit­u­a­tion, and he said af­ter look­ing over the con­tract and the au­dit from the county’s 2017 bud­get, he be­lieves the county is get­ting paid.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate your con­cern and I think you have every right to hold us ac­count­able,” he said. “But as far as the money is­sue I think I can say that last week I was handed the of­fi­cial au­dit, the fi­nan­cial au­dit of our county which in­volved what was go­ing on at the land­fill. And I can tell you that from a fi­nan­cial stand­point that the money we’re re­ceiv­ing ver­sus the money we’re pay­ing out, there’s no prob­lems.”

He promised to con­tinue to work on it be­fore the com­mis­sion moved onto other busi­ness.

As far as the fi­nan­cials go, au­di­tors gave the county good news when it comes to the amount of money they have in the land­fill ac­count. De­spite spend­ing $2.2 mil­lion out of the fund last year on build­ing projects — which in­cluded us­ing the $1.6 mil­lion the county re­ceives an­nu­ally from Waste In­dus­tries for op­er­at­ing the land­fill over the past three years — end­ing in a short­fall of $669,000. The county still has $8.2 mil­lion on hand from sav­ings over the past years of funds from land­fill op­er­a­tions, au­di­tors from Ni­chols Cauley and As­so­ciates re­ported. It was the first year the group con­ducted an au­dit for the county’s bud­get.

Com­mis­sioner Jose Igleasias did point out that au­dit num­bers for the county didn’t in­clude any op­er­a­tions fig­ures from Waste In­dus­tries to com­pare county fig­ures ver­sus their own, start­ing a longer dis­cus­sion over how pre­vi­ous groups of com­mis­sion­ers came to de­ter­mine the fee struc­ture for how much the county makes from land­fill op­er­a­tions.

Com­mis­sioner Marshelle Thax­ton told the rest of the board that he sat in the room with his fel­low com­mis­sion­ers at the time in 2007 when the amend­ment was es­tab­lished for chang­ing the fee struc­ture. The county gets $4 per ton per day fee was es­tab­lished for the first 1,000 tons, and costs be­yond that ton­nage the county gets, which es­tab­lishes the around $1.6 mil­lion added to county cof­fers an­nu­ally.

“They came to us, and asked us 1,000 tons a day at $4 a ton, and at 1,001 tons up­ward, they wanted to give us $2 a ton,” Thax­ton said. “Their rea­son­ing for it was to make them more com­pet­i­tive when they were go­ing out to get their con­tracts.”

Thax­ton con­tin­ued on to say that he ar­gued for the rate to go back up to $4 a ton af­ter an ad­di­tional 1,000 tons a day was dumped in the land­fill, but he said “ev­ery­body in that room, lawyers or com­mis­sion­ers or what­ever, laughed.”

“That was the cut that took place,” he said.

Floyd re­sponded that “for what­ever rea­son, we got the raw deal on this, and the deal we’re kind of stuck with right now,” be­fore he was in­ter­rupted to end the con­ver­sa­tion by Com­mis­sion chair Jen­nifer Hulsey.

Thax­ton did ex­tend his com­ments past that to dis­cuss his be­lief of what the cur­rent ton­nages are, and that “com­mis­sion­ers that night de­cided to help them out, which has in­creased our ton­nage but low­ered our in­come.”

The com­mis­sion still hasn’t come to any res­o­lu­tion on the is­sue of what, if any­thing, should be done to ad­dress cit­i­zen con­cerns and com­plaints about land­fill op­er­a­tions. They have promised ac­tion, but have not yet an­nounced and spe­cific poli­cies or ini­tia­tives in­volv­ing the Grady Road Land­fill.

Kevin Myrick / SJ

Ed Burn­ley chal­lenges re­marks made by County At­tor­ney Brad McFall dur­ing the Jan­uary work ses­sion.

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