Polk County Commission Work Session February 2018

Ed Burnley brought up additional concerns and challenged remarks made by County Attorney Brad McFall during the January work session. (Kevin Myrick/SJ)

  • Commissioner cites past contract amendment that “increased our tonnage but lowered our income.”

Ed Burnley has time and again come before the Polk County Commission to express his complaints and concerns about the Grady Road Landfill.

His position on the growing landfill hasn’t changed: he opposes it.

“This landfill has stunk since 1990,” Burnley began his comments during the February work session. “It has been hushed up. The commissioners know what is going on.”

He cited the signing of agreements in the early 2000s and the fact no one had contacted him, since he is a Grady Road resident, about the ability to comment on the contract.

“The chairman (at the time) Billy Croker said we’d be informed when it is expanded,” Burnley said. “When I knew it expanded, I saw it.”

However during February’s work session, he directly addressed comments made during a previous meeting by County Attorney Brad McFall.

McFall had cited Burnley when addressing financial concerns raised over the amount of money the landfill was generating for the county government’s coffers.

Burnley said “we aren’t getting what we’re do, because we signed an amendment, Amednment No. 1, which cut it in half,” he said. “It was stupid.... there’s no money to steal. We aren’t getting it.”

Additionally, he provided five different things county commissioners could do immediately to provide improvements at the landfill that would make lives better for those residents who live around it. Among those, he called for the county to require covering of any areas currently in use when operations are over for the day, along with addressing the smell and vulture problem. He also wants commissioners to cut taxes for those who live on Grady Road.

He also wanted the commission to have to meet at the Murphy Harpst Children’s Center buildings on Grady Road so they might see the problem first hand and “tell the newspaper how deep we are in the post closure costs.”

“And my last suggestion: get a new county attorney,” Burnley said before leaving the podium..

Quick to respond to Burnley was Commission Hal Floyd, serving this year as vice chair for the board. He came into office promising to look into the landfill situation, and he said after looking over the contract and the audit from the county’s 2017 budget, he believes the county is getting paid.

“I appreciate your concern and I think you have every right to hold us accountable,” he said. “But as far as the money issue I think I can say that last week I was handed the official audit, the financial audit of our county which involved what was going on at the landfill. And I can tell you that from a financial standpoint that the money we’re receiving versus the money we’re paying out, there’s no problems.”

He promised to continue to work on it before the commission moved onto other business.

As far as the financials go, auditors gave the county good news when it comes to the amount of money they have in the landfill account. Despite spending $2.2 million out of the fund last year on building projects — which included using the $1.6 million the county receives annually from Waste Industries for operating the landfill over the past three years — ending in a shortfall of $669,000. The county still has $8.2 million on hand from savings over the past years of funds from landfill operations, auditors from Nichols Cauley and Associates reported. It was the first year the group conducted an audit for the county’s budget.

Commissioner Jose Igleasias did point out that audit numbers for the county didn’t include any operations figures from Waste Industries to compare county figures versus their own, starting a longer discussion over how previous groups of commissioners came to determine the fee structure for how much the county makes from landfill operations.

Commissioner Marshelle Thaxton told the rest of the board that he sat in the room with his fellow commissioners at the time in 2007 when the amendment was established for changing the fee structure. The county gets $4 per ton per day fee was established for the first 1,000 tons, and costs beyond that tonnage the county gets, which establishes the around $1.6 million added to county coffers annually.

“They came to us, and asked us 1,000 tons a day at $4 a ton, and at 1,001 tons upward, they wanted to give us $2 a ton,” Thaxton said. “Their reasoning for it was to make them more competitive when they were going out to get their contracts.”

Thaxton continued on to say that he argued for the rate to go back up to $4 a ton after an additional 1,000 tons a day was dumped in the landfill, but he said “everybody in that room, lawyers or commissioners or whatever, laughed.”

“That was the cut that took place,” he said.

Floyd responded that “for whatever reason, we got the raw deal on this, and the deal we’re kind of stuck with right now,” before he was interrupted to end the conversation by Commission chair Jennifer Hulsey.

Thaxton did extend his comments past that to discuss his belief of what the current tonnages are, and that “commissioners that night decided to help them out, which has increased our tonnage but lowered our income.”

The commission still hasn’t come to any resolution on the issue of what, if anything, should be done to address citizen concerns and complaints about landfill operations. They have promised action, but have not yet announced and specific policies or initiatives involving the Grady Road Landfill.