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Landfill should not be losing money, says committee member
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The Newton County landfill could not only break even but also save money towards capital improvements if subsidies to the convenience centers are ended and all fees strictly collected, according to a member of the citizen solid waste panel.

Bob Stafford presented his findings at the panel’s Tuesday meeting.

According to Stafford’s calculations, which were based on numbers provided by the county, in 2014 the county was short paid $1,190,153.10. Of that, Newton County was responsible for $1,120,252 stemming from the waste citizens dispose of for free at the convenience centers.

According to Stafford, the convenience centers cost the county $1,049,749 for depreciation and operation. Taking into account the $237,615 in revenue from recyclables, the centers account for a net loss of $1,932,386.

Stafford also found that some customers had either been undercharged or had never paid at all for dumping. In one case, he said, VISY Recycling, based in Conyers, disposed of more than $13,000 of waste but never paid.

Stafford estimated that if all parties, including the citizens who use the convenience centers, paid for disposed waste, it would bring in more than $3 million a year, with about $600,000 left over for upgrades and improvements.

The Environmental Protection Division approved the county’s proposal to expand the landfill based on a corrective action plan to address groundwater and air contamination, but the county has made no progress towards the first step, which should be completed by 2017.

Stafford presumed that the solid waste fund was also paying for the lawsuit against East Georgia Land and Development. An open records request to review the financial records of that suit is still pending.

“My conclusion is that if revenue and costs were allocated correctly, we would have realized the same thing our adversaries, the East Georgia Land Company, have known for years,” Stafford concluded. “We would have in excess of $10,000,000 additional funds in the Landfill account. That is a conservative figure.”

“My recommendation to the committee is that a Solid Waste Authority should be activated,” he added, pointing out that the Georgia legislature has already passed the necessary legislation.

Stafford’s report was followed by a presentation from Lamar County Solid Waste Authority President Johnny Poore, who oversaw the financial resuscitation of the Cedar Grove landfill and the permitting of a pyrolytic gasification system to shrink the landfill and reduce costs.

Pyrolytic gasification consists of “cooking” waste without oxygen at a very high temperature, producing benign char and several types of gas, all of which can be resold. As a result, Lamar County is abandoning plans to expand its landfill and could lower solid waste fees drastically. The final permit needed to build the facility was issued last week.

“What you’re trying to accomplish is extremely difficult,” Poore told the panel. “The good news is I fully believe it’s doable.”

“You were where we were 22 years ago,” he said, but added that Newton County would be able to catch up more quickly.

Poore said forming an authority and moving to county-wide curbside pickup were key to the success of the Lamar County Solid Waste Authority, which he said has not received any tax dollars since he took over in 1994.