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Landfill committee announced as citizens debate options

An open meeting Monday night generated a few suggestions and more than a few questions over the future of the county landfill, as the citizen panel to study the issue was finalized.

The citizen panel will be chaired by County Manager Tom Garrett and include Wayne Haynie, Bob Stafford, Brenda Mullins, Denny Dobbs, Sierra Benton, and Scott Willis. Each was appointed by a county commissioner or the chairman.

Monday’s meeting was hosted by the Newton County Conservative Liberty Alliance at the Washington Street Community Center, where local activists and residents made their cases. Tee Stribling of Green Hill P3 and Bob Krasko, a hydrogeologist who has worked on the county landfill and oversaw its corrective action plan, also spoke.

Tonya Bechtler of the Yellow River Water Trail spoke passionately against the privatization of the county landfill, saying, “A landfill owned by the county protects citizens…a private landfill protects profit.”

Porterdale Mayor Arline Chapman said that expanding the landfill would undo much of the progress Porterdale has made transforming itself from a former mill town to a bustling commercial and residential center with outdoor cafes.

“If you were sitting outside eating your shrimp and grits and a garbage truck flew by, would you hold your nose? Cover your plate?” she said. “We’re on our way up and we don’t need a brick wall thrown up in our path.”

Residents of the Springhill community expressed skepticism both of the county and Green Hill, noting that the area has been the site of numerous landfills over the years.

“What about my children and their children?” one man asked angrily, speaking of the environmental impact for generations to come.

Suggestions for addressing the financial aspect of the county’s landfill problem included charging county residents for decals or identification cards to drop off waste at the recycling centers, increasing recycling, and taking in slightly more waste from other counties while retaining control of the landfill.

Under the proposed tripartite settlement, the county would lease its landfill to Green Hill and use the payments to buy property from the East Georgia Land & Development Company to prevent that company from pursuing a private landfill. East Georgia recently won a lawsuit for the zoning rights to apply for a landfill permit on the 424 acre plot.

In order to turn a profit, Green Hill will increase the daily disposal rates four fold to more than 1000 tons a day, and could also apply to expand the landfill’s footprint, which has been a cause for concern among citizens.

Speaking after the meeting Stribling said Green Hill would be “open to discussing the footprint” and hoped to provide more specific information at a future community presentation.

“People assume that an increase in trash means an increase in problems, but that’s not true,” given the current technology and environmental safeguards, he said.

Bechtler, one of the organizers, said she felt like “everyone had a voice” at the meeting, but lamented that Commissioner Nancy Schulz was the only elected county official in attendance.

“They [commissioners] missed an opportunity to hear from their constituents…on a very sensitive topic and the most important one of our lifetimes,” she said.

For her part, Schulz urged the assembled citizens to allow the citizen committee time to do its job.