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Our Thoughts: A new era begins
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The Newton County Solid Waste Management Authority will officially begin its task this week.

After months of discussing whether or not the authority should be formed and how it should be structured, a new era will begin.

That’s how we should look at it — as a new era.

The problems that Newton County has with solid waste are almost too numerous to name here. The highlights being: cells at the landfill that weren’t up to today’s standards of the Environmental Protection Division; environmental hazards near the Yellow River; a lawsuit with East Georgia Land Development; and the cost to operate the county’s 11 convenience centers. The aforementioned, and more, issues all contribute to the financial detriment for the Newton County.

Having a landfill can be a revenue generator, but Newton County is in the opposite position. Efforts to correct damages caused by leachate spills and years of having unlined cells could cost up to $20 million alone.

Interim County Manager Lloyd Kerr recently said that if solid waste was taken out of the county’s budget, Newton County wouldn’t have financial problems.

This is the situation that the Solid Waste Management Authority’s board of directors step into.

It will now be the job of the board’s eight members to bring our landfill up to code and end the current trash problems that could continue to plague future generations. It’s their job to decide if residents can continue to dispose of their solid waste at convenience centers for free. It’s their job to fix the county’s biggest financial problem. It’s their job to ensure more funding for roads, infrastructure, education and more public safety, by limiting what is needed to be spent on solid waste.
That is an important job.

That’s why the era of the reactivated and re-envisioned Solid Waste Management Authority is one of the most important time periods in the recent memory of Newton County.

The board was named just a month ago and, since then, their task list has been waiting… and growing.

On Tuesday night’s Board of Commissioners public meeting agenda, directly following the swearing in of the Solid Waste Authority board members, discussion of the county’s convenience centers (or neighborhood recycling centers) is on the docket. Minutes after being named as official stewards of the county’s trash problems, members will have a major issues laid out in front of them.

The group of Keith Ellis, Lanier Sims, Nancy Schulz, Ronnie Johnston, Bob Stafford, Wayne Haynie, Sharon Sawyer and Phillip Wise have a big to-do list. If that list can be checked off, one by one, it will be a literal reversal of fortunes for Newton County.

That’s what makes this new era – an important, nerve-racking, challenging, and exciting one.