Dale Commission opts to keep landfill 'mothballed'

Commission opts to keep landfill ‘mothballed’

The Dale County Landfill will remain “mothballed” despite a request from the Ozark mayor to the Dale County Commission to reopen it.

Citing lack of garbage volume and the expense associated with replacing outdated equipment, the commission decided at the commission budget work session Sept. 8 to keep the landfill located at Bivins Drive off of County Road 30 near Ozark in “mothballed” status.

The Dale County Landfill has been “mothballed” since 2015 after the commission heard a report from a consultant who outlined options for the Dale County Construction and Demolition Landfill, which at the time was losing money. “Mothballing” is a status between operating and actually closing the landfill that is less cost prohibitive.

After hearing the cost of alternatives from the consultant six years ago, the commission decided on the option that called for cutting the landfill’s hour of operation to a minimum. By restricting the landfill’s hours of operation to four days a year, the expense was far less than that of closing the landfill permanently, the consultant had advised in 2015.

At the Dale County Commission meeting Aug. 10, Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship asked the commission to consider reopening the county landfill Mondays through Thursdays. Citing more new construction in Ozark and an increase in the city’s demolition budget, Blankenship said that the city’s garbage volume would make opening the county landfill financially feasible.

Blankenship told the commission that Henry County operates their landfill with 1,080 tons a year and Geneva County operates theirs with 2,000 tons a year. “I think the residents of Dale County deserve to have a landfill back open,” he told the commissioners.

Besides the county landfill, the only other landfill in Dale County is the Rose Hill Landfill in Midland City which was owned by Dale County Commissioner Charles “Chic” Gary until February of this year when he sold it to Mark Dunning Industries. Blankenship cited the distance of driving construction demolition to Midland City as another reason for his request.

At the Aug. 10 meeting Blankenship, who had been the Dale County Commission Chairman at the time the county landfill was “mothballed,” said, “I feel a little awkward making this presentation because I was the one to make the presentation asking y’all to close the landfill.” He reminded the commission that at that time the economy was such that the landfill was losing money.

The Aug. 10 discussion ended with Dale County Commission Chairman Steve McKinnon suggesting that he and Dale County Engineer Derek Brewer research the exact cost of reopening the landfill and the exact amount of available space there and then report their findings to the commission.

At the budget work session Sept. 8, Brewer said that from 2010 until 2015, the cost of landfill operations was $210,000 a year. “Since we ‘mothballed’ it, from 2016 to 2020, the average annual cost has been $97,000 a year,” he said.

Brewer said that the cost to reopen the landfill would be an additional $113,000 a year. “And we’ve got 1991 equipment out there which would have to be replaced,” he said.

“I would like to say that Derek and I have discussed it and that replacing the equipment with used equipment would cost between $400,000 and $500,000,” McKinnon told the commission. “New equipment would cost between $700,000 and $800,000.

“My personal opinion is that I’d like to see a landfill for our citizens but I don’t think it’s fair to spend the proposed cost to reopen it,” McKinnon said.

“A few meetings ago I think we all expressed that we are not interested in reopening the landfill,” said Dale County Commissioner Frankie Wilson.

Gary agreed. “There’s not enough (garbage) volume in Dale County to keep it open. Period. That’s not even accounting for the cost of new equipment,” he said.

“I want to make a comment here,” Gary said before Brewer made his report. “I’ve got information of street talk—or office talk—from the mayor’s office here in Ozark that I’m still in the solid waste business with Rose Hill Landfill.

“That. Is. Untrue,” a visibly emotional Gary stressed. “I would like to get (Blankenship) to acknowledge that I have no longer an interest in Rose Hill Landfill or any garbage company and I want him to know that publicly—and if it’s put in print, that’s fine. I’m tired of hearing this bickering street talk. It needs to stop. I am no longer involved in the solid waste business.

“Let me say one thing further,” Gary stressed. “I’m still going to vote ‘no’ to opening the landfill. I’m not going to do it. That’s all I’ve got to say about solid waste.”

“First of all, I know Commissioner Gary is out of the solid waste business but I also know he sold his landfill for $600,000 in February of 2021,” said Blankenship after the commission meeting. “It is clear that Commissioner Gary is committed to that landfill over any commitment to what is best for the citizens of Dale County.

“We are the only county in the Wiregrass without an affordable landfill in operation and it shows if you look at the amount of illegal dumping around our county,” Blankenship added. “The construction and demolished waste in Dale County is at an all time high. When we closed the landfill in 2015 we said we would reopen when the economy improved.

“If Geneva and Henry Counties can operate a landfill on a third of our volume, Dale County should be able to do so as well,” Blankenship added. “It comes down to the commission’s priorities and commitment to providing services for our citizens.”

The next meeting of the Dale County Commission is Oct. 12 at the Dale County Government Building in Ozark. A work session begins at 10 a.m. A voting meeting immediately follows. Both meetings are open to the public.

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