November 8, 2017

It’s time to quit the cat-and-mouse game

     Teachers Nanelle Bacon and C.W. Collins aren’t here to tell you, but Tim Cockfield is.  I stumbled through algebra. That’s why I took postsecondary algebra at Waycross Junior College in the summer.  With the tutorial help of John Oglesby, I drove back to UGA on Highway 15, leaving those confusing equations in my rearview mirror.  But when it comes to numbers, I can “do figures,” as the old folks say.
     How long has Wayne County been in this toxic coal-ash quagmire?  By my count, it’s been about 670 days since that shocking announcement in January 2016.  And if you’re counting the times that I’ve expressed my opinions on the subject, the exact number is 73.  If it takes 173 times, I am willing to keep pushing to help get us out of this uncalled-for pollution-risking purgatory.
     More than once, I’ve referred to the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale: “There’s no right way to do a wrong thing.”  Republic Services did the wrong thing when it tried to slip a Corps of Engineers’ rail-spur application by us using the name of its unknown-to-us subsidiary, Central Virginia Properties LLC.  And Wayne County did the wrong thing by agreeing to a contract that allows the landfill operator to have its way with us, allowing Republic to turn our county into an environmental prostitute. 
     We bit the money bait, and thus the nation’s second-largest waste-management company has us trapped.  That’s what the Wall Street giant had hoped, but now we know that’s not completely the case.  If you attended last week’s Solid Waste Authority meeting, you witnessed the exchange of legal opinions. The back-and-forth was a reminder that lawyers—by nature—make their livings by disagreeing with one another.
     Sometimes, there’s no way to avoid litigation.  But in this situation, I believe the best alternative can be reached at the bargaining table.  In my opinion, Republic has not been completely forthright in keeping the public informed.  There’s strong belief that there has been fudging on local laws to accomplish expansion.  Republic argues not.
     In hindsight, our commissioners would have probably balked at a regional landfill if they could have foreseen 2017’s consequences.  But as sure as there are wetlands in Broadhurst, Republic is here and doing business.  It has a grandfathered right to operate.  But if Republic wants to live up to its “good-neighbor” ambition, the cat-and-mouse game has to cease.  Otherwise, the current mood of distrust will not go away.
     When the new “good-neighbor” proposal was presented in July, I asked for a spreadsheet spelling out the financial ramifications for the citizens of Wayne County and Republic.  We were told there was no such computation.  Now, Republic officials have criticized your newspaper for printing “misleading” financial information.  Last week, again, I asked for the company’s projections.  Republic’s attorney waved me off, saying, “You can do the math.”
     A basic rule in any transaction is: “Follow the money.” Republic is not helping itself with these evasive tactics.  At the root of today’s distrust is Republic’s 2005 comment of “Oh, it’s just cleaning-up-some-clutter” language in the contract.  Today, we know the truth.  What we need is less slippery legalese and more easier-to-understand explanations. 
     I may not be a mathematical genius, but I know how to build healthy relationships.  If the goal is mutual goodwill, you don’t use cat-and-mouse strategies.  The time has come for Republic to do the right thing—put its numbers on the table for us to compare and discuss.
     We really do need to be “good neighbors.”