June 26, 2015
Since the Jasper County BOC tried to pull a fast one over on the citizens and form a Regional Solid Waste Authority behind closed doors, a lot has been learned. Some of this information has come to light during the SWC meetings; some of it has been obtained through open records or just plain research.
At the January 12, 2015 BOC meeting, Karen Degges told the BOC that she was sure we could turn waste into energy at the landfill and the EPD would extend the consent order (again) to let them try. She never mentioned the letter she wrote to EPD on September 23, 2014—click on letter to enlarge:
The BOC seemed wary of this proposal, but one commissioner said, “Whatever it takes to get EPD to extend the time.” Here is copy of the entire letter.
The BOC unanimously approved letting her put this Waste to Energy plan in motion. On the same day (1/12/15) Matthew Roper, former landfill “consultant” and certified operator, wrote a letter to the BOC about how he had found someone—Waste Eliminators of Norcross, GA—that would lease the landfill and take care of all the problems. Here is a copy of that letter.
Upon further investigation, we find that Steve Harbin/Harbin Engineering, who Karen Degges mentions in her letter to EPD, works for Lamar County’s solid waste landfill—which has received a $27.5 million GEFA loan to turn “waste to energy.” The project will cost $44 million and Gene Trammell admitted to the SWC that the BOC had looked into partnering with Lamar County on this project. Following is a copy of the information in the 5/20/14 Lamar County BOC minutes.
We question if Steve Harbin or Harbin Engineering ever had anything to do with the Jasper County plan for waste to energy at the landfill. There are no checks written to Harbin Engineering at any time in 2014 or in 2015 and Ms. Degges responded to an open records request for a copy of Harbin’s report with the letter from Matthew Roper. It appears all the information sent to EPD was a smoke screen.
Shortly after the illegal executive session held by the county attorney, Karen Degges, and the BOC to set up a Solid Waste Authority, Mary Patrick filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office for the violations of open meetings. After an attempt by the county attorney to justify the BOC actions by saying that “if Mary Patrick doesn’t know everything in advance she thinks it is a violation,” a second response/complaint was filed with 32 additional letters signed by citizens that joined in the complaint. The Attorney General asked for more information and details from the county attorney. Here is a copy of his (the attorney’s) entire second response.
Notice in this response that Jim Alexander states that additional land acquisition was probable, even though he and all the commissioners were adamant that the landfill would not expand in public meetings. Also in his previous letter to the Attorney General he stated that they went into executive session to discuss land acquisition. Please read the letter; if you attended the meeting at the firehouse and/or the meeting in the courthouse you will see various discrepancies in what was actually said in public and what the excuses are to the Attorney General to defend the BOC against the complaint. (We are still waiting for the final determination from the Attorney General’s office.)
Public outrage along with the complaint to the Attorney General caused the BOC to overturn their Solid Waste Authority and set up a citizens committee. That committee met, worked to find solutions, and prepared a report before 6/30/15—the date set by both the BOC and the EPD when a report/plan had to be submitted to avoid $500 per day fines. The SWC has tried in vain to submit that report in a timely manner, but the BOC and County Manager have rebuffed them. Instead that report will be submitted to the BOC on July 6, 2015 at 6:00PM.
In the meantime, Comm. Trammell has told a member of the SWC “that report y’all are doing has nothing to do with that consent order.” He must have forgotten (remember, according to the County Manager he has memory problems) what he wrote in the SWC mission statement—Item #3 states: “This committee will meet as often as is required to complete the mission within the prescribed times as directed by Consent Order (EPD Consent Order EPD-SW-2648). Said plan stipulates that a formal plan be presented on or before June 30, 2015.”
We have learned that Comm. Trammell was going to write EPD a letter before 6/30/15. Now we have learned that Karen Degges is going to send them an email. An email is not a formal plan as required by the EPD consent order, but the BOC has gotten away with fooling them this long, maybe it will work one more time. If it doesn’t, the members of the BOC should have to pay the fines personally.
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Be informed! Get involved! Plan to attend the July 6th meeting at 6:00PM. Don’t let the BOC fool us again!