As the Newton County Solid Waste Citizens' Committee prepares to present its final report to the Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, Sept. 14, Board Chair Keith Ellis began Tuesday night's meeting with a request that the board convene for a special work session on Thursday, Sept. 17, to discuss landfill issues.
Ellis reported that he, Commissioner J. C. Henderson, 4th District, and County Attorney Tommy Craig met with representatives from Green3Power, a consulting, engineering, and operations firm from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to discuss landfill issues.
The call for a work session was premature, two citizens said during the public comments portion of the evening, since the committee hadn't even shared it's final report. It had, however, sent a draft of the report to the commissioners last week.
"It's disrespectful to our committee," said Mansfield resident Tonya Bechtler, speaking during the citizens comment portion of the meeting. "The committee has recevied requests from a number of companies [to submit proposals] and Green3Power can get at the end of that line."
The meeting with the Green3Power representatives was comparable to "hijacking the work of the committee," she said.
Commissioner John Douglas of the 1st District said he thought Bechtler had a point. "Why don't we listen to the recommendations [of the citizens' committee] and then decide if we need a work session, find out what we want to do?"
The agenda item to approve only accepting bulk waste at the landfill was tabled until the commissioners could hear the presentation of its report from the Solid Waste Citizens' Committee.
The Board of Commissioners approved the Newton County Organization Chart, which delineates the chain of command, with the citizens of Newton County lilsted at the top of the chart, and the Board of Commissioners and its chair reporting to them. An as yet undetermined position would be responsible for reporting to the board and chair, while all other county departments ultimately report to the person in that position.
County Transportation Director Aaron Wadley presented a detailed report on the state of the roads, bridges and culverts in the county, including a report of the 784 miles maintained by the county, 100 are in critical need of repair. He also reported that 12 of the 55 bridges in the county are in need or repair, including the bridge on Brown Bridge Road over the Yellow River, at a cost of approximately $19.4 million.
Wadley said the transportation budget for 2016 was $2.9 million, down from $3.4 million this year. The county will seek grants from the Georgia Department of Transportation and federal government when possible, but most of that money will require the county to contribute a percentage of the total.
During the citizen's comment period, Archie Shepherd of the National Action Network, and Kelly Robinson, 1st Vice Chair of the Newton County Democratic Committee both expressed their anger at the racist and sexist comments made by Commissioner Douglas made on Facebook in response to a protestor who wiped her backside with the American flag as part of the #NotMyFlag social media movement.
Though Douglas later apologized for his comments, admitting they were insensitive, he is still being called upon to resign by some people and groups.
"We don't expect you to resign," Shepherd said, "but we are going to be at every meeting until your term is up or you do resign. The statement you made was very inappropriate."
Robinson called for the commissioner's resignation, saying his lack of resignation is more a comment on his character than any carefully crafted statement he's made since. "It has severely varnished our county on a national level."
She said an online petition was calling for his resignation.