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.