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SWA, BOC form subcommittee to discuss IGA
Ann Neuhierl, center, raises concerns to SWA and BOC members about the future of SWA's oversight. (Jackie Gutknecht | The Covington News)

The Newton County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) met in two meetings Thursday night, with one being a joint work session with the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) to discuss the two boards' mutual agreement.

The night started with a special called meeting of the SWA at 5 p.m. Wayne Haynie, SWA chairman, called the meeting to order and rearranged the agenda. The purpose of the first meeting was to discuss and appoint Jarrard & Davis (J&D) to represent the SWA for purposes of ongoing litigation and any financial transaction related to ongoing litigation and improvements to the landfill property. J&D is the law firm appointed to represent the BOC.

The SWA approved the appointment, and a waiver of conflict related to the joint representation of J&D for the SWA and BOC before going into executive session to discuss the ongoing litigation.

With the second meeting scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m., the SWA returned from its executive session shortly after 6 p.m. to adjourn from the first meeting and call the second meeting to order.

The purpose of the joint work session between the BOC and SWA was to provide an opportunity for the boards to discuss their intergovernmental agreement (IGA).

Lloyd Kerr, county manager, said the best way for the boards to tackle the proposed changes to the IGA was to create a subcommittee with members from both boards. He said if required by open meetings laws, the meetings of the subcommittee will be open to the public. The subcommittee would be up against a tight deadline, as Kerr said the new IGA should be adopted by March 21. 

Marcello Banes, BOC chairman, appointed Commissioner Ronnie Cowan and Commissioner Lanier Sims while Haynie appointed SWA Vice-Chairman Phillip Wise and Bob Stafford to the subcommittee. Haynie will also serve on the subcommittee.

Cowan said his goal was to have the SWA completely autonomous by July 1 with checks and balances in place until it is completely up and running.

“So, we use the term the Solid Waste Authority is ‘tethered’ to the county and what you’re proposing is that by July 1st, that tethering – our 'umbilical chord' – will be cut,” Commissioner Nancy Shultz, who is a member of the BOC and SWA, said.

Cowan agreed and said that was his goal and the July 1 date was simply a guide. 

With public comment being added to the work session’s agenda after SWA member Ronnie Johnston requested it, many citizens raised concern about the SWA’s autonomy and the idea of using an outside hauler for countywide curbside pickup.  Local haulers also spoke up about working with the SWA to create districts within the county for each hauler.

Johnston made it clear that the SWA’s contract with Advanced Disposal Systems (ADS) - an outside hauling company - was “put on the shelf.”

“Right now there is no planned movement, that I’m aware of, with that contract,” he said. “Matter of fact, the county has already taken steps to secure the convenience centers through June, so there is – for those of you who are thinking we’ll surely move ahead with the Advanced contact – that has been put on the shelf.”

Previously, the SWA was reviewing a contract with ADS to provide mandated curbside pickup service throughout the county.