COVINGTON- Commissioner John Douglas said it was time to "cut the cord" with Green Hill P3 and explore a "good, local solution" to the county's solid waste problems during Tuesday night's Board of Commissioners meeting.
The county had been in talks to lease the landfill to Green Hill as part of a wider settlement with the East Georgia Land & Development Company until public backlash against the prospect of a private, regional landfill forced the board to reconsider.
Douglas said that since the deal has been "clarified," he would like to take the Green Hill proposal off the table and requested that it be placed on the next agenda for an up or down vote.
"Since that clarification, the citizens raised objections for a number of reasons," he said. "We were told that the Yellow River would be endangered, that the residents of the area could not stand a mountain of trash in their backyards, that the city of Porterdale would be adversely affected...all these concerns were right on target."
"After long thought, listening to citizens, and examining the issues, I decided not to support keeping Green Hill P3 for consideration," he said, provoking a round of applause from the audience.
"I believe it is time to cut the cord with them and move on to a good, local solution to our landfill," he continued. "I think it's time for our citizens to know where we stand on this issue."
Commissioners Lanier Sims and Nancy Schulz appeared to support Douglas' sentiment, with Schulz describing the deal as a "distraction" from "where we need to go."
"You've got one supporter here and you've had this supporter since the beginning," Sims said. "I've had the opportunity to talk to other companies about different ways of solving our problem...There are some creative ways, some green ways to get us out of this situation."
Commissioner J.C. Henderson has said in prior meetings that he was ready to vote 'no' immediately. Commissioner Levie Maddox did not comment as acting chair Tuesday while filling in for County Chair Keith Ellis, who was on vacation.
"I hope that we can get a unanimous vote in the direction of going on our own," Douglas said. "[Green Hill] was going to throw a few pieces of silver our way while they made millions...It just doesn't make sense."
Tonya Bechtler, representing the Yellow River Water Trail, which has been staunchly against the landfill deal, said she was "proud" of the commissioners for "doing the right thing."
"We saw all the different communities coming together to say 'no' to a regional landfill," she said, adding that she had "absolute" confidence the board would reject the Green Hill deal.
"I trust what they told us last night," she said. "They saw the continued persistence of a united county that wants our government to protect our community and our rivers."
Douglas did not mention the fate of the citizen solid waste panel, which was initially formed to weigh the Green Hill proposal and other options.
Tee Stribling of Green Hill P3 said he was "surprised" by the direction the board was taking.
"How can they make a determination when we haven't even presented our amended proposal to the landfill committee?" said Stribling.
He said that Green Hill had hired Springhill resident Lynn Johnson as a consultant to help the company work with the community and amend the proposal according to local concerns. He said that Green Hill had agreed not to extend the landfill any farther down Lower River Road.
Regarding potential expansion, Stribling said Green Hill would apply for a horizontal expansion in order to move the landfill away from the Yellow River but would keep it within the landfill's existing permitted acreage.
He also said rumors that some families from Springhill had been offered buyouts were "completely false."
He said Green Hill would continue working with the community in the coming weeks, taking it "one step at a time."