Greene official refutes charges

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 25, 2005

EUTAW-Since talks of a landfill in West Greene have come tempers and accusations have flared. Monday, Commission Chairman Chip Beeker responded to some of the criticism the commission has encountered.

Beeker said no one on the commission is trying to secure a landfill. He said they are simply listening to the company and the public to see what is best for the county.

“We don’t want to be pro or con,” Beeker said. “A public hearing will be held for everyone to hear both sides. We want everyone to hear from both sides because if you only hear from one side it ends in a fight.”

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Some have accused the commission of trying to secure the landfill without properly informing the public. Beeker said they have followed the lawful processes and planned to let everyone have a voice at their public hearing.

“The public process has been clearly followed,” Beeker said. “The statements that this has not been a public process are a lie. We have put it in local papers that there would be a public meeting.”

Beeker said there is a misconception that the commission can single handedly making the landfill happen. He said there were several agencies that would have a say before any final decision was made.

“We don’t have the authority to make it a reality,” Beeker said. “ADEM has to license them and that hasn’t been done yet.”

Beeker said he would listen closely to both sides and weigh the benefits and problems closely.

“I’m not for the landfill,” Beeker said. “I am not opposed to the landfill. I am neutral and waiting to hear the pros and cons. I am in favor of more revenue. I have to be.”

If the landfill were to come to Greene County Beeker said the county would receive an estimated $300,000 to $500,000 per year. However, he said he would have to see these numbers in writing.

If the numbers were accurate the revenue would be a huge boost to the local economy. Beeker said the county was bankrupt in 1996 and has yet to fully recover.

During that time county general fund employees had their hours cut to 35 per week, which has cost the county in terms of grant money. Beeker said at one time the county was forced to send $700,000 back to the state because they were not able to spend the money to get projects done because of a lack of manpower due to hourly cutbacks. The money was only available to be used for road and bridge projects and had to be spent in a certain time period.

Beeker added no businesses are coming to town and six to eight have closed downtown in the last year. He said several sit on the brink every year. Beeker said something needs to be done to generate revenue for the county so workers would make a decent living.

“Our economy is shrinking,” Beeker said. “Our employees need things. They need to be able to buy $3 gas, shoes for school and groceries. All of those things are going up.”

Race has also become an issue for those opposed to the landfill. Some have accused the county of proposing a landfill on land owned by poor black citizens. However, Beeker said this was not the case.

“Landfills in Tuscaloosa and Meridian had several homes around them,” Beeker said. “The proposed site for the Greene County landfill has only two houses within one mile and 10 to 15 within two miles. Eighty percent of the houses are white landowners.”

Beeker said the landfill is not a black versus white issue. He said it is a matter of looking at what was best for the county as a whole.

“I took an oath to serve everyone,” Beeker said. “I took an oath to serve the large landowners as well as the people making minimum wage. I took an oath to serve everyone.”

Beeker said they plan to continue to research the subject closely before their November meeting.