Lawrence County is expanding services at its landfill, which will allow more garbage to be accepted from a larger service area and is projected to generate about $200,000 in additional funds for the county each year.

Following an hour-long public hearing process on Friday, commissioners approved amendments to the county’s solid waste management plan, which will allow garbage collections from any county in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The plan also increases the daily tonnage allowed at the county landfill from 1,500 tons to 2,000.

Morris Farm Landfill, located in Hillsboro, was zoned for a 50-year cycle in 1995. At the time it was zoned, the landfill was rated as being able to accept up to 1,500 tons of solid waste per day.

Attendants to the public hearing on Friday expressed concerns that the landfill would reach its maximum capacity prematurely with the expanded service plan, but commissioners and officials with Republic Services, the company that owns the landfill, said that was “highly unlikely.”

District 5 Commissioner Joey Hargrove said the landfill receives about 900 tons on average for every day it is open.

Republic Services General Manager Michael McClung said the chances of the landfill reaching daily intake limits were extremely low.

In a letter presented to the commission, McClung outlined projections showing the landfill is expected to last 30.4 years at 1,200 tons a day, 24.3 years at 1,500 tons a day, 20.3 years at 1,800 tons a day, and 18.2 years at 2,000 tons a day.

In Friday’s public hearing McClung said the landfill reaching at-capacity in 18.2 years was a “worst-case scenario,” and the chances were slim to none.  

“That 2,000 tons a day would have to happen seven days a week,” he said. “That’s not going to happen. We get daily reports, and we’re watching those metrics. The trucks can’t come in here willy-nilly. There won’t be any surprises.”

Republic Environmental Manager Amber Hoffman said of 148 acres at the landfill approved to accept solid waste for disposal, only 78 acres are currently in use.

McClung said the likelihood of accepting garbage from counties near other landfills is very low as well and added that the county will likely only see business from about 15 counties under the expanded service area, including the seven counties served under the former plan.

Before the amendments, the county’s solid waste management plan only allowed service of the landfill to Lawrence, Morgan, Limestone, Madison, Lauderdale, Colbert and Franklin.

Republic Manufacturing and Environmental Services Executive Brad Stepp said the landfill would most likely only collect solid waste from border counties in Tennessee and Mississippi.

Attendants at the public hearing also expressed concerns for the environment and questioned Republic on steps being taken to ensure hazardous waste is not brought into the county or disposed of improperly.

Stepp said that garbage collected at the site will only be accepted according to Alabama Department of Environmental Management approval, and added that ADEM’s protection policies are stricter than neighboring states.

Hoffman said the Morris Landfill utilizes double liners for added protection, but the facility also has visual inspections, cameras, and technology at the scale house to check for radioactive materials and hazard waste.

Commissioners said the amended plans would help generate more revenue for the county’s general fund and said the added daily tonnage could mean an additional $200,000 annually.

Beginning May 1, 2018, Lawrence County Solid Waste began receiving $1.25 per ton for landfill deposits from BFI Disposal Systems, also known as Republic, following a settlement for underpaid host fees.

The host fee increase generated about $25,000 in additional revenue for the county in fiscal 2019. According to the settlement, the fee will increase two cents per ton each year through 2023 and then one cent annually through 2070.

McClung said Republic will also pay additional funds for the “wear and tear” of the county roads as a result of increased truck traffic coming in from the amended service area.

Commissioners approved the amended plan 5-0 in its regular meeting on Friday, following the public hearings.

In other business, commissioners also appointed Angela Baldwin interim Solid Waste Director after District 3 Commissioner Kyle Pankey was forced to step down for health reasons.

Baldwin has worked with the county’s solid waste department since 2012.

Commissioners also approved the re-opening of county public parks according to health guidelines outlined in Gov. Kay Ivey’s Reopen Alabama orders. Commissioners said health orders will be enforced at each park by the park’s district commissioner.

The commission also approved the hiring of Corrections Officers Chad Huckaba and Justin Sapp for the Lawrence Sheriff’s Department. Each was hired at a pay rate of $13.09 per hour, effective May 20 and 21.

All commissioners were present for the Friday meeting.

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