Tuesday, February 08, 2011

8 FEB 11: Filled to Overflowing

A big event in Phenix City Monday had people lining up one hour early for seats. And here's the amazing part - John Conlee wasn't even scheduled to sing.

The Russell County Government Center was packed for a public hearing on a proposed landfill in south Phenix City. The atmosphere was so tense that Sheriff's deputies searched people at the door -- which admittedly is a good way to encourage metal recycling.

You may have seen billboards warning about this proposal, even in central Columbus. "Landfill beside the Chattahoochee River," they scream - but that's misleading, because its closest point is three-fourths of a mile away. The Fourth Avenue Car Wash is closer to the river, but I don't see anyone walking west from there with fishing poles.

Yet even that distance is too close for opponents of the proposed landfill. They told the Russell County Commission dangerous chemicals could run off from the site into the Chattahoochee River, or seep into the river from groundwater. And who knows what could happen if Blaze Recycling offers a one-week special price on copper.

The stakes were so high at the landfill hearing that there was a statement from a scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of us remember recent history -- and realize the CDC wouldn't know there's anything dangerous in the river until dozens of people in Eufaula become sick.

Hugh Sorrell of Earth Services LLC told the Commission his landfill would accept only construction materials and waste from demolition work. But opponents warned those materials can contain items such as arsenic - so obviously, old lace should be barred from these grounds as well.

Hugh Sorrell assured Russell County Commissioners the Alabama Department of Environmental Management will put strict rules on his landfill. But people who have tracked Phenix City sewage spills into the Chattahoochee River probably weren't comforted by that. Don't you dare ask what brown can do for them....

Opponents of the Earth Services project argued the Russell County area has more than 300 years of available landfill space. Then why is Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley so concerned about extending the "life span" of the landfill on Schatulga Road? Is the Valley Partnership so focused on building up that it overlooks where to throw things away?

But Hugh Sorrell argued his landfill in south Phenix City will lower costs of dumping, because there will be more competition. I never thought before of a competitive market for landfills. Top dollar for my gold is one thing - but dead tree limbs?!

The Russell County Commission faces a Wednesday deadline to vote on the landfill proposal. In a potentially telling sign, Commissioner Cattie Epps endorsed it - even though the project would go in her district. I can see the angry opponents in next year's election, making "Cattie OOPS" signs.

WRBL spotted Cattie Epps and two other Russell County Commissioners at a private meeting last week with landfill supporters. A reporter was NOT allowed to enter, which is sure to spark rumors of deals in "smoke-filled rooms" - even though they should have ended with state rules against smoking in government buildings.

-> We had a big night of online poker last week. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: Thanks to all of you who played along with our Super Bowl "experiment." But I slowly determined Monday Green Bay won the game. It started late in the day as I sat with a group of people in an office. One man was asked if he rooted for the Steelers, and he only made a grunting noise.

(I'll take the blame for not being prepared for that moment. I should carry headphones with me during these efforts at ignorance - not to mention something to plug into the other end.)

But then of all people, Kurt Schmitz settled things during the 11:00 p.m. weather report on WTVM. He talked about snow-shoveling in Green Bay for "a big party tomorrow night" - and I'm smart enough to know Wisconsin hasn't made a bid for the Winter Olympics lately.

Now for a quick check of other news we actually were interesting in hearing Monday....

+ A Muscogee County grand jury indicted former Columbus Parks Director Tony Adams and staff member Herman Porter. But supporters of the suspects don't need to worry too much yet. In basketball terms, the arrest and indictment only give them two fouls.

+ Country Crossing owner and Phenixian promoter Ronnie Gilley was ordered jailed by a federal judge in Montgomery. A former lobbyist indicated Gilley offered him a bribe to give false testimony - and told him in October: "The eagle is about to land." I would have expected secret code like this in the Cam Newton investigation, but not here....

+ Opelika Police Chief Thomas Mangham confirmed to WTVM he wrote an e-mail last week, essentially ending a "mutual aid" policy with the Lee County Sheriff's Office. The Opelika City Administrator didn't seem thrilled by this news - but then again, he's the one who will have to move excess jail inmates to Phenix City if Lee County won't take them.

+ Flatbed trucks began hauling Army Reserve military vehicles from Fort Gillem to Fort Benning. Fort Gillem is closing most of its buildings, due to base realignment - and those rows of barracks will make great housing for Atlanta families still dealing with foreclosure.

+ Instant Message to the driver of a car I saw on South Lumpkin Road with the license plate "1BIGEGO": If that's the plate you're going to have, at least put it on a Cadillac.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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