Let's clean out the notebook...
• The Pineview Landfill closure notice is a big thing. It is a really, really big thing. And not just because it is convenient for some of you to bring your garbage there.
I won't say I am an expert, but I was around when regulations were set up, and area governments had to start dealing with where to take their household garbage. Eventually, the Subtitle D landfills that were set up is what took them. It meant driving out of town to dump the garbage, but those counties who had their own Subtitle D landfill were in the money as they got major breaks paying next to nothing, if anything, for dumping, and they also might get fees.
According to the owner, Republic Service, Pineview has served local residents and businesses since 1995. The landfill employs 15 full-time employees and supports 82 direct and indirect jobs in the county, as well as paying $377,000 in annual taxes. It provides free disposal to residents at a value of $851,000 per year. The landfill makes $4.4 million in direct and indirect purchases from local businesses, and has paid the county more than $5 million in host fees since opening. The landfill - which still has some 40 years of life left in it - has a $7.1 million annual economic impact on Walker County and the surrounding region.
Moreover, a legislative act calls for $250,000 in tipping fees to go to the county each year for a Christmas bonus for county employees, in the form of one-time pay increases that is often used to purchase toys and clothes for their families' children.
Keep in mind if this Subtitle D landfill is lost, this will run into untold costs for the local governments - and for you. Transportation costs will rise; Walker County Commission Chairman Jerry Bishop, an old trucker himself, estimates it could be 50 to 75 percent more in cost. Fees will have to be paid. All those benefits will be lost.
And it comes as the Walker County Commissioner is just now beginning to climb out of the financial hole it has been in. It was already hit with the closing of the Gorgas Plant, and it is expected that a loss of property tax revenue from that one day could be a big blow. Losing the landfill would be just as bad.
The bad news is that because of a consent decree in 1995 that resulted from a class action lawsuit, the landfill is scheduled to close. Stakeholders in and out of government would have to agree to keep it open longer. Negotiations have not been fruitful to now.
The good news is that I think since the announcement, there has been some more interest in talking this out among the people involved. That doesn't mean anyone is committed to anything, but people are willing to talk. That is enough.
I want to point out that personally, I am an environmentalist at heart. (And before any Trumper jumps down my throat, remember it was Republicans like me who started the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s.) I have contributed to several environmental groups, because I think God gives us the responsibility for this earth and we should do more to take care of it instead of abuse it.
And landfills are not perfect, God only knows. I covered the Chemical Waste Management hazardous waste landfill, and that was an interesting situation. Some have even questioned Subtitle D landfills on liners and such, but I think they usually do well. I'm told this week by some who have viewed the Dora landfill independently that it is about as clean a landfill they have seen.
Look, it would be wonderful to eliminate landfills altogether. But truthfully, we have to take the garbage somewhere, and dispose of it responsibly. The Subtitle D regulations are in place to make that dumping responsible. I'm told by a co-worker a resident can pay a dollar and show proof you are a county resident and you can personally dump your garbage there.
If it goes away, I think we will have more irresponsible, illegal dumping all over the place. At least now people are willing to take the garbage to the landfill. If Pineview goes away, the whole area could be a mess. I'm not even sure out it might affect the transfer stations west of Jasper.
In the end, we would face too many negatives to punt and start over again at this time. If we have 40 years left, we should be using that time to plan on what we do when that period ends and we really do have to take it somewhere. Do you trust that officials in the distant past have made those plans? I doubt that, as some of them got us into financial messes we are just now beginning to get out of, and the later necessary priorities just didn't allow the time for this planning. That is why we need to continue with Pineview at the present in order to begin adequate, long-term planning of how we deal with 2060 or so. That, in and of itself, will be serious, long-term planning that will not be easy. Five years will force us to make drastic decisions that will rip off any bandages of the recent wounds, possibly forcing rough economic times again - and maybe not just on the commission, but also on municipalities which use the facility as well. And, again, there is the threat of illegal dumping due to higher fees and loss of landfill access, as this county does not have mandatory dumping rules any.
Let us hope wiser heads prevail so that we can finally do the right thing in adequate planning for long-term closure of this landfill, without the economic and environmental pain that we would inflict ourselves in the long-term.
• After talking about needing speakers and mics at the Walker County Commission meetings, I have to commend the commission for getting some equipment in place for Monday's meeting. Oddly enough, it didn't seem to make that much difference. District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams made a point, and County Attorney Eddie Jackson, just a few feet away, had to ask him to repeat it, as he couldn't hear him. I couldn't hear District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis suggest moving the Jan. 20 meeting to Jan. 21 due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day (which they approved). Davis afterward suggested they need to speak closer into the mics.
We know the acoustics are not great in that room. Sometimes the speakers haven't really helped in Carbon Hill. Maybe the acoustics play a larger role than the mics and speakers. I know some people brag on the acoustics of a place like the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, when a small room it is hard to hear. You could put acoustic tiles on the wall to help, I suppose, but maybe it is not meant to be. But hopefully the commission can figure out the problem. I feel somewhat responsible since I have suggested a system many times - of course, so have other people, too - so I am hoping we can make this succeed. But I give them credit they are really trying hard - and they have been surprised how hard it has been to get help and response on the project from vendors.
• I was not surprised to see Hardee's in Jasper closing, as you rarely saw many cars down there in recent years. But I was a little shocked about Moore's Landing, as it seemed to be there for a long time. Dad and I have ate there some Sundays, although not as much recently. I do recall many meetings of the Walker County Republican Party there in the banquet area over the years, although the Republicans now meet at Bevill State Community College.
• Marion County residents are in a little bit of shock as the Winfield-Hamilton football game, a rivalry that has gone on for like a century, will not be played in 2020 as both sides needed a fifth home game. They are talking of renewing it for the next year, and how important the game is to gate receipts and pride, but if they really cherished it like others do, they would have taken care to get it on the schedule early. I think it is a shame to lose it like that.
• Then again, I think many of us are in shock about Bryan Moore leaving as head coach of Jasper - but not really, either, as the new classifications are going to make it much tougher for Jasper, and he could move up in position. But I think many people had no heads up what was going on, and it came as something of a shock. The good news is Jasper has an excellent staff left behind to help the kids in practice and the coming season.
(Ed Howell is news editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)