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Regional solid waste plan may be doomed

SUMMIT — A regional solid waste management plan is not beingimplemented as envisioned 10 years ago, and area government leadersare weighing whether their continued participation in the authorityis warranted.

Mark Williams, with the Solid Waste Branch of the stateDepartment of Environmental Quality, discussed the regional solidwaste management situation with county and municipal leadersThursday during a meeting at Southwest Mississippi CommunityCollege. Several members of the seven-county authority were notrepresented.

Williams said local governments appear to be informally planningand managing solid waste activities instead of following through onthe regional approach that was adopted in 1994.

“They’re not criticisms and they’re not deficiencies, butthey’re observations that DEQ has made,” Williams said.

In addition, he said annual updates are not being done and theregional authority does not have the financial resources toimplement the plan. The plan also addressed such topics as how toreach recycling goals, illegal dumping, waste tire management andother issues.

While he was not specific, Williams complimented somecommunities on their solid waste efforts.

“We’ve got some communities that are doing an excellent job ofsolid waste management,” Williams said. “It’s just not happeningthe way the plan laid it out.”

The plan called for the creation of a regional landfill toaccept garbage from the region.

However, Ronnie Lindsey, McComb’s representative on theauthority’s governing board, said estimated costs for disposing ofgarbage in the landfill was around $100 to $125 a ton. Privatecompanies, he said, charged around $25 a ton.

“It was not economically feasible for us to build a landfillwithin this geographic area,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey mentioned transportation factors that increased the perton cost for the regional landfill and the low volume of garbage inthe seven-county area.

“I don’t see how it can work,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey and Charles Burke, Lincoln County’s authorityrepresentative, also cited financial limitations and lowparticipation by other authority members. Lindsey said theauthority has about $36,000 in its account.

“There’s no way for us to implement it the way we are now,”Lindsey said about the plan.

With some board members not attending meetings, Burke said theauthority cannot get a quorum and therefore cannot conductbusiness.

“People just lost interest,” Burke said.

Aside from some help in preparing a private garbage contractused by some municipalities, Lindsey was hard pressed to identifyany “tangible benefits” of the authority. Several others atThursday’s meeting questioned whether it should be dissolved.

“We’re not ready to make a recommendation, but that’s somethingwe need to decide on,” Lindsey said.

Williams said the department was not in a position to tell theauthority is needs to dissolve.

However, Williams said DEQ had been patient, but it wouldeventually issue an order to cities and counties to have ameaningful solid waste management plan. He mentioned thepossibility of penalties for non-compliance.

“That’s what we’ve avoided doing so far,” Williams said.

With Thursday’s meeting participants expressing a sentiment forthe authority to dissolve, Williams discussed the process by whichmembers could withdraw. That would take a resolution from the localgoverning board and then a resolution by the authority board.

Garrick Combs, Franklin County’s authority representative,expressed a concern about possible opposition from some governmententities that were not present Thursday.

“We have to change something, and it’s going to affect theentire area,” Combs said.

Withdrawing from the authority would place the responsibilityfor having a solid waste management plan on individual cities andcounties. Williams said cities generally join with counties indeveloping a plan.

Citing estimates from a few years ago, Williams said the costsranged from $15,000 to $45,000, depending on population and otherfactors. He estimated Lincoln County could have a plan made for$30,000 to $35,000.

Combs asked if it would be possible to develop a time line fordeciding whether the authority would continue. Others indicatedthat may not be possible due to a lack of representationThursday.

“A lot of people who make the decisions are not here,” Lindseysaid.

Williams said he would be available to discuss solid wastemanagement plans on an individual basis with city and countygoverning boards.

Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop and Brookhaven WardFour Alderman Bob Massengill, a member of a city board subcommitteeon solid waste, said there appeared to be a consensus to haveWilliams attend a future joint city-county meeting.

“It seems the committee will look to recommend that the citywithdraw from the authority and hope to form one with our friendsin Lincoln County,” Massengill said.

A date for that appearance has not been set.