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Commissioners discuss trash pick-up during marathon meeting
Newton County's Historic Courthouse is busting at the seems as members of the public attend the Newton County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night. ( Jackie Gutknecht | The Covington News)

The Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) held a four-hour meeting Tuesday night before a mostly full chamber at the Historic Newton Courthouse. Many in the large crowd had come to get information on and express their concerns to the board about the county’s pending agreement with Advance Disposal Systems Inc. (ADS) for trash pick-up in unincorporated parts of the county.

Commissioner Ronnie Cowan, however, said late in the meeting that as a result of an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) signed between the board and the Solid Waste Management Authority, the choice of the contractor does not rest with the commission.

“I get so many phone calls from people who say, ‘Do not support this.’ I have a hard time telling them that there ain’t a thing I can do about it. I just want people to understand. This board has no authority over this,” he said

Section 2.4, sub section (b) of the IGA states, “ … the Newton County Solid Waste Management Authority (NCSWMA) and Newton County hereby agree that the NCSWMA will administer any existing agreements related to Newton County’s Solid waste stream and management thereof on behalf of Newton County.”

Previously, many of the speakers during the citizen’s comments portion of the meeting had addressed the commission about the trash pick-up issue and expressed support for the Solid Waste Authority (SWA), while simultaneously voicing concerns about the contract. Chief among those concerns was that ADS is not a local company.  Many expressed support for the local haulers. Recycling was also a concern.

“I, for one, am looking forward to countywide curbside pick-up. I am appalled that recycling is not included. It’s been a mandate for the county since the 1990’s to focus on recycling,” Ann Neuhierl, of Covington, said.

There were also questions about the transparency of the process.

Wayne Haynie, chairman of SWA, addressed sought to address those questions and to allay other concerns about the pending contract.

“It was a two-step process,” Haynie said, “We received statements of qualifications from many vendors out there. Before that, we held meetings where we talked publicly to all of the different vendors. We had 30-40 participants show up at two different pre-proposal conferences.”

Haynie went on to say that he was not sure if the local haulers were aware of the meetings.  He also said the contractor chosen, ABS, was the only contractor SWA considered that considered the local haulers in their proposal.

Haynie said ABS had also agreed to run the recycling/convenience centers through June so the county can honor the hang tags purchased by citizens to continue to use the convenience centers.  According to Haynie, the sale of the hang tags generated more than $400,000 for the county to help with the landfill.

A joint board meeting has been scheduled for Monday, Jan. 23 at 5:30 p.m. between the SWA and the BOC in the Historic Courthouse to continuing discussing the contract.