GUEST COLUMN: Consider other options for county landfill
I shared these thoughts at the Franklin County Commission work session Aug. 8:
I am not here to debate the current proposal for the multi-state mega dump that is in front of you. I think it is obviously a poor solution for the county, and I think you know why. Based on the information coming out in op-eds in local newspapers and the heavy Facebook traffic, the Todd Centre will likely be required for the public hearing.
Instead, I would like to briefly discuss some concerns and thoughts regarding how we got where we are and how we should move forward.
The garbage disposal business has become an incredible money-maker in the U.S., as evidenced by the number of large national corporations that are actively proposing and placing landfills – let’s call them what they are, “garbage dumps” – across the country. Alabama seems to be in the forefront of this push, as our average of dumps per person is high. We have 173 dumps.
So, it is not surprising that when an opportunity to make a quick buck came up, an engineering/public relations firm not part of our county quickly jumped on it.
What is surprising is that you as our leadership seems willing to at least entertain this proposal without engaging your own financial and engineering firms to determine what the correct solution for our county is.
Do we have any other bids or proposed solutions?
The solution is clearly to accept only trash from our county and not from other states and counties, but where should a dump be, and what are the environmental and financial impacts of the dump?
The proposal is being considered without environmental studies or without an assessment of its impact on the county’s long-term strategic plan.
Frankly, this matter should have been addressed years ago, but for some reason, we kicked the can down the road.
We are promised that these issues will all be addressed after the commission’s vote, so in effect, the commission is being asked to approve the proposal without knowing the critical impacts and without any due diligence by our own financial and environmental experts. Who has performed due diligence on the numbers and impacts alluded to in the proposal? Instead, we are relying solely on the “facts” as prepared by those who will profit from this.
There is clearly a lot of profit in the proposal or the future owners would not be in front of you, so why would you be willing to accept this as our only solution without doing some very serious due diligence and investigation?
I have many years of domestic and international merger and acquisition financial and due diligence experience, and I can tell you what we are doing is letting Nick Saban and one of his Alabama teams come in and play a game against one of our high school teams just so we can get some of the TV and gate receipts.
There is a better way, but we need to get some outside help for you, our commissioners; you just don’t have the time to give to this, and you have well-paid talent working against you.
We do not seem to be in an immediate crisis relative to this county waste issue, but are we treating it that way? Has a crisis been created to move it through?
Remember that we learned from former President Obama that we should “never let a good crisis go to waste.”
I am sure we have to act and should act in the future to resolve our county waste disposal issues, but how should we do it?
First, take a deep breath and tell the folks with the current proposal that it will be rejected because we need more time to evaluate other ideas that include only county garbage and that have the best and most positive environmental and financial impact for the county. We only have one proposal in front of us, and it is to take garbage from multiple states and counties and let it pile up near a local school and at the headwaters of two of our famous lakes and one of Russellville’s water supplies – all for profit and not necessarily in the county’s best interest.
Next, set up a citizens advisory committee made up of people with the county’s best interest at heart who will not benefit from the construction and operation of the dump in any way. Take a year, and in that year, build a financial model – after an independent environmental engineering group has assisted in locating a county-only dump site.
Finally, bring the proposal to the citizens for a vote. This matter will have far-too-long-term and sweeping impacts on the county’s future to be addressed without allowing our citizens to vote yea or nay.