In a recent vote of 3-2, Newton County SWMA approved authorization of a new bond for $25 million dollars. The bond is necessary for future plans and to pay a legal settlement related to the land-fill. The two nay votes were Bob Stafford and Phil Wise.
County Public Information Officer Bryan Gazio provided a breakdown of the funds and their intended purpose:
- Refinancing of GEFA (Georgia Environmental Finance Authority) loan – $3,380,557
- Excavation and Reclamation Phase 1 at the landfill – $9,927,821
- Landfill Acquisition – $10,212,215
- Total – $23,420,593
The balance will be applied to the administrative costs of the bond issuance. This vote and the new debt are on the heels of the year long controversy over permit uses and the landfill services in general. The landfill will be sold and the funds used to settle the dispute with the East Georgia Land and Development Company.
While there is an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the BOC and SWMA, the budgets and finances are handled separately. Chairman Wayne Haynie indicated that the bond issuance was unnecessary and reckless. The lawsuit in question has plagued Newton County for nearly two decades and the issuance of the bond and sale of the land-file are the only way to finally resolve the lawsuit, through a legal settlement of a lesser amount. The landfill was purchased by the SWMA from Newton County and included the pending litigation. The solution agreed to by both entities was to settle the lawsuit, selling the landfill, and reclaiming the land. This wil satisfy a compliance requirement with state regulatory authority over such matters. This issue is in part related to another decision, part of a year-long controversy, over recycling centers.
The request by Wise to delay the vote until June 15th was denied.
The SWMA approved five full-time convenience centers that will remain open after June 30th. These centers allows residents to dispose of or recycle household waste, yard waste, common recyclables, and bulk waste. The sites to remain open include Oak Hill, Adams Circle, Stone Road, Stewart, and Piper Road-36. The hang-tag fee is set at $145, an increase of $1, except for the Bypass center, which accepts only yard waste and recyclables, and its fee is $24.
Commissioners agreed that the increase of $1 will go towards a "hardship fund" to offset the cost of residents who financially cannot afford the service. This was the outcome of the resident complaints to county commissioners over the inability to pay for the fee. Former commissioner John Douglas argued in favor of the citizens last year stating the convenience centers and land-fill was about the only entitlement the middle-class of Newton County had and voted in favor of keeping them all. Citizens weighed in prior to the decision on how to pay for the hang-tags either annually or quarterly.
The hours have been announced as Tuesday through Saturday only, from 10:00am until 7:00pm.
Should the SWMA acquire more debt to pay, more debt? The issue is complex as it relates to both Newton County BOC and SWMA, in addition to outside pressures of the EPD and the pending settlement of the lawsuit. NNN will investigate the history of both the landfill/convenience center(s) and the lawsuit and provide followup stories for readers that have not been following these issues.
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