County will continue landfill negotiations

Published 10:15 am Friday, August 31, 2012

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to allow County Administrator Gary Breedlove to continue negotiating with the City of Tallahasee, Fla., and Leon County, Fla., with the possibility those municipalities might begin disposing their waste in the county’s landfill.

Breedlove told commissioners at Tuesday’s board meeting that negotiations had recently reached a stalemate. He said that Mitch Kester, a consultant who represents both of the Florida municipalities, had recently asked the county to accept the garbage at a rate of $21-per-ton.

“I told him that we might get the commission to buy in at $22 (per ton), and he hasn’t yet responded to that offer,” Breedlove said.

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Commissioners expressed some concern that the $22-per-ton offer is less than the $24.50-per-ton that is currently being paid by Decatur County citizens and the City of Bainbridge.

“My position would be that, if and when we commit to a number with Leon County or the City of [Tallahasee], that our citizens will pay the same amount that same day,” Commissioner Dr. David C. “Butch” Mosely said. “It’s not an option with me.”

Commissioner Russell Smith made a motion for Breedlove to “continue negotiations and come back with a final figure to us.” That motion was seconded by Commissioner Frank Loeffler, and eventually passed 4-1.

Smith, Mosely, Loeffler and County Chairman Dr. C.T. Stafford voted in favor of the motion, while Commissioner Oliver Sellers voted against it.

Prior to the vote, Sellers explained that he would not vote in favor of any rate that was not at least $29-per-ton.

“The average rate [of landfills in our area] is $35-per-ton,” he said. “Leon County is charging their own people $29-per-ton. Don’t give our gold away, for just a few dollars.”

Breedlove told commissioners that accepting the Florida municipalities’ garbage could result in a net profit of $3 million or more to the county’s budget. He said that figure includes all expenditures related to processing the garbage, as well as future costs associated with closing or expanding the landfill.

“This is about righting our financial ship,” Breedlove said.

Breedlove said that Leon County and the City of Tallahasee are currently paying $28-per-ton to transfer their garbage to a landfill in Campbellton, Fla., approximately 82 miles away from the Leon County transfer station. The Decatur County Solid Waste Facility, located on U.S. Highway 27 South in the southeastern part of Decatur County, is just 22 miles away.

During the discussion, two Decatur County citizens voiced their opinions on the issue. Billy Leverette, a former county roads superintendent, said that he believed the county would have to make some harsh sacrifices if it did not come to an agreement to take other municipalities’ garbage.

“It looks like, if we don’t get this, then there’s not but three options that the commissioners are going to have,” he said. “You’re either going to have to raise taxes, or cut service, or lay people off.

“I don’t think the taxpayers have been informed of what this truly would mean for our county. When you take in another $3 million, that helps subsidize the county to where we don’t have to borrow money or raise taxes.”

Claude Shirley, a former county treasurer, noted that a recent online poll by The Post-Searchlight showed many people in the county are not in favor of taking garbage at a lower rate than what the citizens currently pay. As of Friday, the poll showed that 72 percent were in favor of taking no outside garbage regardless of the fee charged, and 25 percent were in favor of taking outside garbage only at the same fee as citizens. Only 3 percent were in favor of taking outside garbage at a lower rate than what citizens currently pay. A total of 236 votes had been cast in the poll.

“If you go forward with the [offer] you’re currently talking about, then you’re going against 97 percent of the people in the county,” Shirley said.

Breedlove also said that John Simmons has been hired as the county’s solid waste director. Simmons has 23 years of experience running a commercial landfill in Wayne County, Ga., which took in 3,000 tons a day.

“He’s identifying things we need to do, to improve our operation and streamline our operation,” Breedlove said.