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Boards exiting regional waste plan

Brookhaven and Lincoln County leaders have informally agreed towithdraw from an ineffective regional solid waste authority and mayconsider forming a new compact with Pike and Lawrence counties.

Supervisors, aldermen and other officials discussed problemswith the regional authority and potential solutions Tuesday duringa joint meeting with Mark Williams, engineer with the stateDepartment of Environmental Quality. Williams said a seven-countyregional solid waste plan adopted 10 years ago is not beingimplemented, and DEQ is looking for local officials to address thatissue.

“We’ve identified the priority areas of the state where we thinkthere is a significant need…” Williams said. “This is one of thetop places on the list.”

Among other deficiencies, Williams said members of the authorityare handling solid waste duties on their own, the authority lacksthe necessary financial resources, and proposed solid wasteprojects are not moving forward.

“This regional plan, quite honestly, has little significance inthis part of the state,” Williams said.

Charles Burke, Lincoln County’s representative on the authority,said members have not been attending monthly meetings. He said thebody is at a standstill.

“The board has been unable to function in its duties,” Burkesaid.

Similar concerns were aired during a March 25 meeting withWilliams and regional representatives in Summit. Officials at thatmeeting discussed the possibility of dissolving the authority,although none have formally withdrawn yet.

“We know we’ve got to do something because we’re doing nothingnow,” said Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop Tuesday.

With some members not participating and DEQ pressure to updatethe solid waste plan, city officials said they were ready to act.They indicated that staying in the regional authority was not anoption.

“If we stay where we are, it’s going to cost more money todevelop a plan, and we still haven’t done anything,” said Ward FourAlderman Bob Massengill.

Williams said the solid waste plan must account for issues suchas rubbish disposal, illegal dumping, waste tire disposal,recycling goals and others. He said the costs of developing a planwere not known, but he estimated it would be between $30,000 and$60,000.

“It really depends on what they want the plan to do,” Williamssaid.

Officials said they were in a good position to be able to handlethose.

“Between the city and the county, we’ve got pretty much thewhole plan in place,” said County Administrator David Fields.

Officials raised the possibility of forming a new regionalauthority with Pike County, McComb and Osyka, and Lawrence County.Williams said officials would have to determine what the advantagesof a regional authority with those counties might be.

More entities sharing in plan costs was one advantage mentionedTuesday. Williams also said a DEQ grant could help cover up to 50percent of the plan costs.

Better prices on contracts from private garbage companies wasanother potential advantage.

“The more garbage you have, the better price you’ll get fordisposal and hauling,” Burke said.

With the possibility of fines for non-compliance, officials werealso angered that individual cities or counties could be heldresponsible for regional inaction.

“We’re being punished for what they’re not doing,” said JimmyFurlow, assistant to Mayor Pro Tem Terry Bates.

At a special city board meeting later Tuesday, aldermenindicated a desire to withdraw from the regional authority. Theyagreed to explore formation of a new authority with the county andpossibly other nearby entities.

“We’ve got to be able to have somebody go with us on thisbecause the costs would be too great by ourselves,” Massengillsaid.

Aldermen agreed to wait until next Tuesday’s regular meeting todeclare their intent to withdraw from the regional authority. Theysaid that would give supervisors time to act at their meetingMonday.

“Let them state their intentions, and we’ll follow suit,” saidAlderman-at-large Les Bumgarner.

The city board’s solid waste subcommittee, including Massengill,Bates, and Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron, along with Furlow andDeputy City Clerk Marsha Fairman were named as city representativesfor discussions about a new regional authority.