25 January 2017

[TPC] - Wednesday Night Check-in: Talkin' Trash Edition

- TPC -
~ est. 2010 ~
[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

[ Updated - see below] - 

Greetings, dear readers, and welcome back to The Chronicles. Hope all is well.

The big item of discussion pertaining to Newton Co. as of late has revolved around trash. Back at the first of the year word hit that the county Solid Waste Authority (SWA) had come up with a solution to solve the trash woes of the home county and a way to solve the approx. $2 million bleeding per year that we've been seeing. That solution was to close the convenience centers and go with mandatory curbside pick up. A Request For Proposal (RFP) was done last year by the SWA to this effect and the accepted bid was tendered by Advanced Disposal. Upon further review, it was obvious that this was not the way to go for Newton (more on that later).

As the first full week of the new year turned into the second week it started to look like this was going to be a done deal; however, the proverbial #NewtonCounty12 kicked into gear and things went from there.

It is in this writer's estimation that the tide was turned by the tireless efforts of many people; however, it was two of the home county's most well known activists - the River Lady and the one and only Samuel Hay, who really led the charge. But the articulation of the case against this was laid out by another activist, Ms. Ann Neuhierl. Here's her letter to the editor to the Covington News from several days ago: 

It has become apparent that the RFP(Q) for Solid Waste RFQP#16-06A was written to prevent the local companies now serving Newton County from being awarded any/all of the contracts for Solid Waste Management. Taken a while to figure this out, but the recent announcement of a “pending contract” (is this an “intent to award”?) has brought this to light. I’ve seen many RFPs written in a “preferential” way. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The RFP(Q) also doesn’t appear to have been well-advertised. Local haulers have stated they knew nothing about it. Again, just because you are only required to announce in one publication doesn’t mean you should. It’s not even on our County Website.
In this “voluntary” system, will the local companies be prohibited through their “district sub-contract(s)” with ADS from charging their current rates independently and running their current routes? If this is the case, the Centers will be much cheaper and heavily used, again, and the roads will suffer. My cul-de-sac currently has three waste-disposal trucks each week. There are more than three companies servicing the rest of my neighborhood.
Why do we need to increase costs by contracting with ADS or anyone else to set up routes and haulers? Why would those of us who already have curbside pick-up for $14/month want to pay more for the same service? AND when you have a “monopoly” the price doesn’t go down, does it? What time frame will the “agreed upon” fees be held to? How would this cost be controlled? Curbside should be managed by the SWA. If we don’t have the staff, hire it!
Why are we awarding curbside pickup to a company associated others set on bringing a Trash Mountain to our county? DAS also has a horrible environmental record. Are we not interested in working on cleaning up our environmental issues?
Why isn’t recycling part of the RFP(Q) and pending contract(s)? This is key to cleaning up our county. If we included recycling, we could close the centers and stop the financial losses and the road wear associated. What happened to all the talk about following other counties' lead(s) in becoming a zero-landfill county?
Will ADS have the same or a different rate as others for tonnage disposal at our landfill?
Why was a quorum avoided for the Private SWA/BOC meeting Tuesday with ADS and the local haulers? Why are meetings like this being held before any citizen input on the SWA intentions?
The reason so many fought so hard for a SWA was to stop the Trash Mountain and clean up and reduce our landfill. I think SWA members, for the most part, want to head in this direction. Unfortunately, some of the current plans have what could be called “Unintended Consequences” that will not be good for the county...
As it turns out, this RFP was not just for curbside pickup. It was also for operation and control of the landfill, and that, dear readers, seems to be the rub. Once you see that actual RFP, you can tell that this was done by design. A back door way to take over the landfill, or so it seems.

Fortunately for us, cooler, calmer and smarter heads have prevailed, at least for the moment. At the SWA/Newton Co. BOC meeting on Monday the 23rd, Mr. Ronnie Johnston, Mayor of Covington and SWA member, seemed to save the day, according to multiple reports. First, he insisted that citizen comments be added before any vote was taken, and he, seemingly, was the driving force behind making sure that this questionable bill of goods did not turn into a bill of lading. And say what you will about Mr. Mayor, and I've said a few choice words about him over the years, you can't deny the fact that he's got his finger on the pulse of things way more that a lot of folks in position of power around these parts. Simply put - this was bullshit; and he, along with several other folks, at least gave us a chance to steer clear of it. Kudos, also, to Commissioners Cowan and  Edwards. Doesn't it feel nice to have faith and confidence in our BOC? It's been a long time since we could say that, no?

And there's a myriad of other things: 

- possibly putting multiple existing going concerns out of business
- the questionable legalities of a state political subdivision trying to enforce mandatory trash pick up (municipalities are basically like corporations, counties are not)
- the recurring feeling that there may be foxes in the hen house as it relates to these issues within Newton County 
- And what about the logistics of mandatory collection? Hwy 36 would turn into a damn disaster on pickup days!

A solution is out there. Like several others, I think you have to maintain at least some of the convenience centers. Maybe 5, perhaps 7. Mandatory collection? No way!

More to come later... 

Thanks for reading. Til next time.

UPDATE 1.27.16 - I forgot to mention that the local haulers who would have been adversely effected by this change were instrumental in keeping this from becoming a done deal.


08 January 2017

[TPC] - The Story of Millsaps

- TPC -
~ est. 2010 ~
[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

The Story of Millsaps
Chapters 1 - 13
By TPC Cont. Writer Ellis Millsaps 

*Ed. note (8 January '16): I was originally going to do this in a serial format and had done a post of the first two chapters, but upon further review have decided to do this as just one post. It is a fine piece of work, and very interesting.

*Original Ed. Note: What follows is a familial history that Ellis wrote several years back, much of which was originally published in the Covington News. Most of it centers on his parents, and his father in particular. Enjoy! - MBM 

Chapter One: In Which Doris Gets her Oats

The man Wallace Millsaps, known to thousands as Preacher Millsaps and whom his Appalachian relatives called “Wallus,” was born in the spring of 1909 in a log house built by Millsaps before him on Upper Jack's River in what is now the federally owned Cohutta Wilderness Preserve in Fannin County, near the Tennessee/ Georgia/ North Carolina line.

The spot where the cabin stood is fertile bottom land situated as high above sea level as such land could be in Georgia and is sometimes occupied by a U.S. Forrest Ranger station until miscreant locals burn it down again.

My father's parents Mount Aubrey and Lovey Jane Millsaps. 

His father, Mount Millsaps, and his mother, Lovey Jane, lived on a parcel of land that was part of a 4,000-acre tract of Cherokee Indian land “given” to a Thomas Millsaps by the State of Georgia for his service in the War of 1812.

My father's great-grandmother was a member of that tribe.
The entire Cohutta range was then owned by descendants of the men who had received the original land grants, most of whom were land rich and dirt poor, and almost all of whom lost their land to the government for inability to pay its taxes during the Great Depression.

The boy Wallace's schooling ended at the sixth-grade level because the one-room church that doubled as a school only had six grades.
To go to high school required a 15-mile trip to the hamlet of Epworth and you had to buy your books, both insurmountable obstacles.

He kept attending the sixth grade for a couple of years after he'd graduated to pick up what learning he could – which is not as time consuming as it sounds because the young women the state sent to Jack's River to be schoolmarms never came back to face the mountain winters of Jack's River, once they went home at Christmas.
As a boy, while much of the country was engaging in the excess of the Roaring Twenties, Wallace worked as a shepherd, tending sheep that foraged in the forest, living off of what he could kill and catch, away from home for days at a time, sleeping on the ground.
He wore shoes only in winter. He was 16 years old before he saw a town bigger than a country store doubling as a U.S. Post Office – the town being the county seat of Blue Ridge 18 miles away, the barefoot teen-aged Wallace driving a mule, (who may have been named Doris, and who may have eaten oats) down the circular paths out of the mountains, pulling a wagon load of watermelons to be sold for whatever he could get.

03 January 2017

[TPC] - The Road Ahead

- TPC -
~ est. 2010 ~
[State of GA]
[Newton Co.]

Greetings, you fine and fabulous readers! It's been a while since we've conversed and we've missed you during the holiday break. Hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year's.

So...now we get to spend the next few weeks trying to remember to write a 7 instead of a 6 on our checks and other documents. How could it possibly be 2017? It just doesn't seem right. Oh well, time marches on, and so do we. 

Newton County Politics

As I write this, the newest edition of the Newton County Board of Commissioners is having their very first meeting at the Historic Courthouse on the Covington Square. There seems to be a widespread sense of optimism throughout the home county, albeit somewhat guarded and cautious. A large and general consensus seems to feel very good about Mr. Stan Edwards being the new Representative from the 1st district. Several feel that he can be the statesman and communicator to put together a voting-majority coalition to finally start getting the hard decisions made and doing the right things while doing things right. A sizable but smaller group feels equally good about Ronnie Cowan bringing his strong intellect and ability for analysis to the table for the greater good of the home county. And more and more, there are good feelings and thoughts about Marcello Banes being a free & independent Chairman of the Board with a strong & genuine desire to help to get this ship in the right direction. 

We'll see... 

What are the most pressing issues for this current board? Hell, what isn't? It's going to be a tough row to hoe and I agree with the words that some have shared in the past few days that they will need at least a little bit of time to get their legs under them. But once that happens - and one would think that this needs to happen sooner rather than later - this board will have a laundry list of items to consider and there will be several tough decisions to be made. What's most pressing? Landfill and the convenience centers? JDA? Additional and more in-depth forensic audits? A move to zero-based budgeting? Streamlining operations and cutting bureaucratic redundancies? The list goes on and on. What's important to you? After all, you, as Citizen and Qualified Elector, are the most important person in this county. You are The People! And you are in charge. You need to talk to your representation. Here's their contact info: 


Marcello Banes, Chairman (Elected/2017)
O: 678.625.1201
M: 404-805-5094
F: 770.784.2007
Stan Edwards – District One (Elected/2017)
O: 678-625-1200
M: 678-294-9166
F: 678.625.1221

Email: asedwards@co.newton.ga.us

Lanier Sims – District Two (Elected/2011)

O: 678.625.1200

M: 404.585.1922
F: 678.625.1221
Email: lsims@co.newton.ga.us

Nancy Schulz – District Three (Elected/2009)

O: 678.625.1200    

M: 770.337.7562

F: 770.784.2014

J.C. Henderson – District Four (Elected/1997)
O: 678.625.1200
M: 770.896.3826
F: 770.784.2014

Ronnie Cowan – District Five (Elected/2017)
O: 678-625-1200
M: 678.313.4607
F: 678.625.1221
Email: rcowan@co.newton.ga.us

In terms of the road ahead for The Piedmont Chronicles, well...we're just going to keep doing what we're doing. An eye on local events, politics, and issues as well coverage of music, the arts, culture, local history, and human interest stories. Ellis Millsaps is still our main (and only) contributing writer, and we might be putting out a few new things and features, too.

I hope this post finds you well and I hope 2017 is the best year yet for all of us.


M.B. McCart