The Newton County Solid Waste Management Authority is up and running.
The authority’s board of directors was officially sworn in at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners’ (BOC) meeting in the Newton County Historic Courthouse, and held its first meeting Wednesday.
The authority, which was reactivated in January, has an eight-member board of directors -- BOC Chair Keith Ellis; District 2 Commissioner Lanier Sims; District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz; Covington Mayor Ronnie Johnston; Sharon Sawyer and Philip Wise, representing the Spring Hill community; and Bob Stafford and Wayne Haynie. Because the landfill is in the Spring Hill community, the commissioners felt that two representatives from that community would best serve the authority.
Following a discussion of what would be under the authority’s purview, specifically pertaining to the county’s 11 convenience centers, County Attorney Megan Martin swore in the authority members.
The authority’s duties had been spelled out in the county’s act to enable the authority as well as by citizen’s committee recommendations made in March of 2015. However, prior to Tuesday’s meeting there was talk on social media that the county’s convenience centers, operated by Junior Hilliard, would be removed from the authorities list of responsibilities.
The four-member BOC, meeting without District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson, who was tending to an injured son, cleared the air on that issue.
“The convenience centers are an equally important part of the disposal process as an enterprise fund,” Schulz said, and made a motion for the Solid Waste Management Authority to operate the convenience centers.
Discussion about the convenience centers, which allow for free disposal of trash and recyclables to Newton County’s residents, has been debated by the BOC for some time. During last year’s budget approval, the BOC approved a proposal that would distribute decals to county residents, charging anyone without a decal for using the recycling centers and creating a revenue stream.
The revenues generated was estimated at $1 million, which was included in the 2016 fiscal year budget. However, as the BOC approaches the first budget meeting for the 2017 fiscal year, scheduled for Tuesday, April 26, the decals have yet to be put in place and no one has paid to use the recycling center.
Since then, the BOC has wrestled with what to do with the centers, torn between the centers' negative impact on the county’s budget and calls from citizens to leave the centers open.
“This board recognizes that the citizens appreciate and want recycling centers,” District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox said. “This board also recognizes that there has to be a modernization and changes of how we do things.”
District 1 Commissioner John Douglas said several citizens expressed their desire to keep the centers open and free. He asked Schulz to add in her motion that the Solid Waste Management Authority would have to request approval from the BOC before closing the centers. Schulz, however, didn’t add that to the motion, saying “the intent is for them to have full authority over decisions.”
“You have three members of this board also on that authority,” she added. “We are very sensitive to the wills of the people.”