Published 12:00 am Monday, August 14, 2006
Lowndes County Commission to vote Aug. 21
By Cassandra Mickens
The Selma Times-Journal
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HAYNEVILLE – Lowndes County residents anticipated a final answer from county commissioners regarding the development of a construction and demolition (C&D) landfill Monday. However, they’ll have to wait one more week for a yeah or nay.
During their regular meeting, the commission unanimously voted to hold a special called session Monday, Aug. 21 at 10 a.m. at the Lowndes County Courthouse for the final vote.
For the remainder of this week, each commissioner vowed they will comb through all positive and negative information concerning the landfill – part of a $25 million three-phase economic development project that will also include an inland port and a sand and gravel mining operation.
The project – proposed by the Alabama-Georgia-based group Alabama River Partners, LLC (ARP) – will provide up to 75 jobs for Lowndes County and generate a new tax base and revenue if approved, according to ARP spokeswoman Kim Davis.
If approved, the landfill – to be located in the county’s industrial district along the Alabama River and Pintlala Creek – would accept debris from six southeastern states and include C&D debris from Hurricane Katrina. Some residents fear the landfill will result in irreversible environmental hazards.
APR representatives were present at the meeting as well as members of the pro-landfill group Citizens for a Progressive Lowndes County (CPLC), who were sporting white T-shirts that read, “Say yes to a C&D landfill.”
Members of the anti-landfill group Citizens for a Clean Black Belt (CCBB) were also on hand for the meeting and had a short list of people who addressed the commission on their behalf.
First to take the podium was Michael Johnson, an economic development consultant for World Business Advisors, based in Birmingham. Johnson recommended the commission take a closer look at ARP’s business plan, which he says is “incomplete on economic development merits.”
“There is not enough information on each phase of the project,” he said. “The information submitted does not back up a $25 million, 75 job investment.”
Johnson added, “The sand and gravel operation, the inland port is great.
But is a landfill crucial to those?”
CCBB Chairwoman Tina Moon certainly doesn’t think the landfill is crucial to the county’s prosperity.
In her address to the commission, Moon tapped into the fears of many residents who believe the C&D landfill may be converted to a municipal solid waste landfill if the commission gives the project the green light.
Moon said once the project is approved, ARP may run the landfill as they see fit without the consent of the commission.
“When you sign off on this deal, it’s out of your hands,” Moon said.
ARP attorney Robert Gilpin immediately labeled Moon’s statements as false, saying if the landfill is converted to a municipal waste facility, “it has to come back to the county commission.”
Commissioner Dickson Farrior then asked ARP investor C.D. Dinsmore if ARP would be willing to put something in writing stating the landfill would only take C&D debris, which includes items such as sheet rock and masonry materials.
“It would rest a lot of fears in this county,” Farrior said.
Dinsmore replied, “We told the governor we would love to keep our options open. We have no plans to do anything but a C&D landfill.”
Dinsmore later said putting a statement in writing would not make good business sense, but again reiterated ARP has no other plans.
“Liar! Liar!” an audience member exclaimed.
Concerns were also expressed about bridge management, road management and litter control if the project is passed.
Taking in all of the views presented, commissioners said they would make the best decision for Lowndes County. Commissioner Robert Harris said residents must accept the decision the commission makes and “try to make the best about it whether it’s good or bad.”
“Some people are gonna like it, some people are not,” he said. “We’ve heard your cry and I think a sound decision will be made.”
Harris also challenged residents to apply their passions over the landfill to everyday county issues, urging them “to come see what your commissioners are doing.”
In other business:
Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley presented the commission with a $78,325 check for purchasing new voting machines as part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). “Because you spent the money up front, you deserve to get it back,” Worley said.