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Our Thoughts: Tags sold, direction needed
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Car tags for use of the county’s trash collection convenience centers began being purchased by Newton County residents recently.

That development marked a $50 expense for county residents to dispose of their trash. And for the first time in decades there was a significant change to the county’s waste stream.

Change is tough. Especially when it costs.

The county has not been able to make its solid waste stream a true enterprise fund. And the county’s convenience centers have meant that roughly $2 million a year in tipping fees does not cross the scales at the county landfill. Add in the fact that the county is low on cash in its general and emergency funds.

A change is, and has been, desperately needed.

What will that change be? When will it come? Who will ultimately be responsible for making the change?

Ask around town and the answer is the same — “I don’t know”.

Members of the Newton County Solid Waste Authority seems unsure sure what the future will be for the county’s trash needs, the board of commissioners (BOC) seem unsure of the direction they are headed, and citizens — as evident by comments at board and authority meetings and on social media — definitely are not sure what the future holds.

Even the way things have unfolded has been a little hard to follow.

The Newton County Solid Waste Authority (SWA) was formed this year to be the entity responsible for the county’s trash needs. It met for the first time in April, following recommendations from a citizens committee formed by the BOC.

Shortly after the SWA’s first few meetings, the BOC made the decision to charge for the 11 convenience centers.

Just before the decision to charge for the centers, the county and SWA signed an intergovernmental agreement, turning everything to do with the county’s solid waste stream — landfill, convenience centers, recycling — over to the newly formed solid waste authority. The authority, which hasn’t yet formed a business plan, doesn’t have an executive director and is made up of Newton County citizens, most of whom are learning about the business of solid waste, wasn’t sure where it was going.

Then a fee to citizens was delivered and suddenly everyone is being pressed as to what is happening with the county’s convenience centers and its landfill.

But decisions are yet to be made.

The SWA, and the BOC for that matter, need to be focused on what the long-term plan is. That is the way to succeed. We’ve seen how this formula works, or rather how not abiding by it doesn’t work, in the past.

When officials opted to make knee-jerk policy decisions in the past it has led to problems.

And a great deal of community mistrust.

This is not the path to take with our solid waste stream. We need to avoid past actions of showing an inability to demonstrate a program strategy and figure out a plan.

Leadership means taking action, as the BOC and SWA will surely do. But we must avoid past actions that show an inability to think past the immediate future. And avoid answering to the loudest squeaky wheel.

We caution the SWA to move swiftly but decisively in order to help the citizens of this county settle into change. We urge the BOC to do the same.

Leadership is being bold enough to make decisions as necessary, stay the course when possible, and change course when prudent.

When change comes, no matter how difficult and no matter how many agree or disagree, it is that leadership that will carry us through.