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Newton authority narrowly votes to stay on course for hang tag increase
Agency increased cost of tag required for garbage convenience center use by $10 July 1

COVINGTON, Ga. — The agency that oversees Newton County’s solid waste disposal efforts will continue moving toward a $10 increase in the cost of using trash convenience centers after it failed to approve a request to eliminate it.

A motion by Solid Waste Management Authority member Ronnie Cowan to halt the July 1 increase failed after members deadlocked on a 3-3 vote Thursday, March 18.

Cowan’s motion also would have eliminated an annual $5 increase for convenience center use in the next four years that landfill officials have said is needed to allow the county’s solid waste department to eventually break even on the service.

However, in a separate vote, authority members directed Solid Waste Manager Kevin Walter to devise a plan for use of a windshield sticker or barcode system instead of a hang tag for display in vehicles to identify those who paid the fee.

Cowan, who represents District 5 on the Board of Commissioners, said he was concerned about the overall cost of operating the convenience centers. 

He said he believed they should be operated more efficiently through such technology as barcoded stickers rather than paying to employ live attendants.

The Authority voted in February to increase the cost of access to the county’s six convenience centers by $10 to $165 a year July 1.

At the same February meeting it voted to approve an increase in landfill tipping fees from its current $40 per ton to $48, with the minimum charge to dispose of waste at the landfill increasing to $30.

The increase likely will primarily affect private haulers who service the county’s residential areas.

Cowan said he was more supportive of raising needed revenue through increased tipping fees rather than raising hang tag costs. 

He said tipping fees generally affect private haulers who have the option of deciding to pass along the increased cost to their customers. Hang tag fees directly impact residents who use the convenience centers for household garbage disposal, Cowan said.

"Convenience centers are pretty close to home," he said.

Hang tags or use of the centers are scheduled to go on sale June 1 with the price increase.

Walter said in February the tipping fee and hang tag increases "are necessary to keep the budget of the landfill balanced.”

“This will enable us to continue funding the day-to-day operations of the landfill and make improvements necessary to be good stewards of both taxpayer funds and the environment,” he said.

The county has charged a fee for use of its six convenience centers since October 2016.

It offered the service free for 20 years but reportedly consistently lost money on the landfill’s overall operation, which included the convenience centers, and regularly was forced to use money from the county budget’s General Fund to cover the costs.  

In other action March 18, the Authority voted to deny a request for a 4% increase in its contract with engineering firm Harbin Engineering for monitoring of ongoing work at the Lower River Road facility.

A motion to increase the contract amount was defeated after Authority members deadlocked 3-3 on a motion to increase the amount it paid Harbin.

Weather and safety precautions for COVID-19 had slowed its monitoring of the work — which includes removal of garbage from the oldest part of the facility for installation of a lining; covering existing solid waste; and creating a new area for the landfill’s expansion.

The landfill is located on Lower River Road south of Porterdale.