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Authority eyes new west Newton convenience center, SPLOST funds for landfill equipment
The SWMA plans to ask a committee to recommend county commissioners include $2 million for new landfill equipment on the list to be funded with 2023 SPLOST funds if approved by voters in November. - photo by Courtesy of Newton County

COVINGTON, Ga. — The county’s solid waste board wants to build a west Newton convenience center and use $2 million in SPLOST proceeds to replace worn-out landfill equipment.

Newton County Solid Waste Management Authority (SWMA) recently voted for one of its members, County Chairman Marcello Banes, to ask the Board of Commissioners for a donation of land and half the funding needed to build a convenience center in west Newton.

County Commissioner Stan Edwards, who is also an Authority member, made the motion for establishment of the new center — the seventh that SWMA operates for residents to dispose of household trash.

“It is needed for the citizens of that area, no doubt,” Edwards said. “(There is) still much planning and coordination to be done but we all agree it needs to be done.”

If approved, it will join convenience centers that now operate in east Newton off Georgia Hwy. 142; southwest of Porterdale; on Covington Bypass Road and on Hwy. 36 south of Covington; in south Newton near Alcovy High School; and in north Newton on Stone Road in Oxford.

Newton County commissioners, however, have not publicly addressed the plan since the Authority’s April 21 meeting.

The convenience centers were basically free to use before the Board of Commissioners placed the centers and the county landfill on Lower River Road under the SWMA’s control in 2016 in an effort to control rising costs the county was funding directly from the budget.

Officials said the cost of operating the centers led to all taxpayers subsidizing their use rather than only those using the facilities. SWMA imposed the user fee as a way for the centers to be self-funding. 

The convenience centers will require a $170 annual fee for use after June 30 but are an alternative to hiring private haulers for household trash pickup, officials have said.

But some county commissioners have complained in recent years that they should be free again. They said the $165 annual cost is prompting residents to dump their garbage on roadsides countywide and forced the county to pay part-time workers to collect it.

The Authority also voted to authorize Solid Waste Manager Kevin Walter to request the SPLOST Oversight Committee to include $2 million for new landfill maintenance equipment on a list it will recommend to county commissioners for SPLOST 2023 funding.

Walter said the SWMA will use the money to buy a bulldozer, track hoe, wheel loader and a compactor over the SPLOST’s six-year life if approved by Newton County voters in November.  

Using cash to replace equipment will allow the Authority to use more of its annual operating budget on improving landfill operations, maintaining the heavily used landfill roads and refurbishing existing convenience centers.

“In the past when new equipment was needed it was purchased via five-year loans on which the principal and interest payments were paid out of the annual general operating expenses,” Walter said.

Newton County voters will be asked on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot to renew the SPLOST —which is a 1% sales tax voters have renewed since the 1990s.

It has been used for such projects as construction and renovation of county government buildings and purchase of equipment for the sheriff’s office and other entities.

The 2023 SPLOST is estimated to produce around $108 million over its six-year life if approved by voters in the Nov. 8 General Election.

Newton County officials have been in negotiations with the six cities on the percentages of the funds each will receive if the SPLOST is renewed. If the current split is used, the county would receive about $80 million of the total.

The SPLOST Oversight Committee has begun meeting twice weekly this month to hear requests from county government departments and area nonprofits for inclusion for funding.

The committee is to make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners by the end of this month on what should be included on the SPLOST funding list. The Board then will either approve the committee’s recommendations or make changes before approving a final list of projects.