Ware landfill lawsuit stays alive

22 11 2008

By CAROLE HAWKINS | Times-Union

A Superior Court judge has declined to dismiss a lawsuit that could block a Florida company from burying fly ash at Ware County’s unused Tri-County Landfill.

Judge Dwayne Gillis’s order amounts to a split decision in the lawsuit challenging the validity of a 2004 contract between Ware and Florida-based North American Metals Company, or NAMCo. The suit claimed state and county laws were violated in creating the contract.

In his order issued Thursday, Gillis, of the Waycross Judicial Circuit, dismissed five arguments made by landfill opponents in their suit but left three others to be decided in court.

In a related action, Gillis also ordered an administrative court judge to revisit his dismissal of another lawsuit, which said Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division erred when it permitted the landfill for NAMCo’s use.

In the ruling on the landfill contract, Gillis said Ware’s agreement with NAMCo arguably violates county code, which states no industrial or hazardous waste and no refuse generated outside the county can be accepted at any disposal site. Under the contract, NAMCo would bring coal ash to Ware County from Florida by rail.

Also, Gillis said the landfill could be considered a public works project, which means – as landfill opponents argue – it should have been put out for competitive bids. The competitive bidding requirement is “designed to protect the public coffers and taxpayers who are required to fill those coffers,” Gillis wrote in his decision.

He found that allowances for two five-year extensions on NAMCo’s 20-year lease could violate a state law that says counties can lease government functions to private companies for no more than 20 years.

Gillis threw out several arguments made by landfill opponents.

He ruled the NAMCo contract did not violate the 1989 special local option tax initiative, which had funded the landfill’s construction. Nor did it violate Ware’s agreement with its neighbors, Pierce and Bacon counties, both of which originally shared the landfill with Ware. The three counties had built the landfill in the mid-1990s to dispose of household waste. Since it was not economically feasible to operate the landfill after it was completed, the county “properly exercised its discretion in altering its original landfill plan,” Gillis wrote.

Read on here.

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