Commissioners debate landfill, nonprofit funding
At a recent meeting, the Scotland County Commissioners stated their positions on the megadump landfilll.
Commissioners debate landfill, nonprofit funding
by Matthew Hensley
Residents asked county commissioner candidates questions about a proposed landfill and funding for non-profits during a forum that was at times heated, with some directing pointed attacks at incumbents.
The main courtroom at the Scotland County Courthouse was filled beyond capacity, with people standing in doorways and outside the room at the Laurinburg/Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored event.
Six candidates for county commissioners, all Democrats, are running for three seats on the board.
Bill Owens, the only Republican candidate for county commissioner, was not invited to speak as he faces no opposition in the primary.
Daniel Dockery, a challenger seeking one of two Stewartsville District seats, was the first to air his concerns over the proposed landfill and the only candidate to take on the issue without prodding from attendees.
He told the voters he was seeking office to make sure "that this community is properly informed with all aspects of this landfill, waste dump, that is proposed to come into this area. To bring something like this into our area is nothing more than environmental racism.
He said most landfills are build in poor areas with a large minority population.
The first question candidates received was on the proposal, which has been dubbed by opponents as a "mega dump."
Tommy Grubbs, of Laurinburg, asked the group how they would vote on a landfill based solely on the information they have.
Incumbent commissioners largely dodged giving a yes or not answer, saying there simply did not have enough information to vote.
"I could not justifiably vote for or against the landfill," J.D. Willis said. "I have not received all the information, the pluses and the minuses of what impact a landfill will have on Scotland County. After receiving that information and going that process, if it is deemed that we should not have a landfill, and that it is going to detrimental to Scotland County, I would vote no."
Commissioner Guy McCook agreed.
"I think I have to agree with Mr. Willis, and we don't agree very often," he said. "I think that this is a very complicated issue. I think many of you have heard me say more than once that I don't have enough information to make a decision yet."
McCook wants more information on a number of issues, including the environmental impact of the proposal and the affect it could have on the Laurinburg-Maxton Airport.
"I think we owe it to the citizens of Scotland County to do our due diligence and take our time," McCook said.
Betty Gholston said she had opposed a prior landfill in the past without saying how she felt on the current proposal.
"In 2008, I opposed the landfill that was proposed because that is not what the citizens of Scotland County wanted at that time," Gholston said. "I want you to trust me, as your county commissioner, that I will do what is best in Scotland County. I will not do anything that will harm our environment."
"I'm opposed to the landfill," said candidate Carol McCall.
She told the audience she visited another large landfill elsewhere in the state.
"That is not what Scotland County needs. I don't want to bring anything to Scotland County that would be a detriment."
John Cooley said he opposed the landfill expansion, at least with the information he has. He took exception to the fact that a lining was thought to prevent any seepage into the ground water, especially as the trash heap would be 240 feet tall.
"You don't have to have that much weight on top of a tire and you can get a hole in it," he said. "You know the consequences of when that happens. I really can't see why that would be what Scotland County needs."
Dockery reiterated his prior opposition, telling the crowd he would vote against the measure.
Several people raised the issue of the current method of funding non-profits.
Each commissioner has $10,000 to distribute annually to organizations with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, with the commission chair having an addition $5,000.
McCook has been a long-time foe of the practice and said it needs to be changed for better accountability.
"They can dole out however they want to," he said. "They don't need to tell anybody. We get a report occasionally, but it's not on a regular basis. There is no debate, there is no vote of the board. I think we owe it to our citizens as a community that every dollar we spend as a commission goes in front of the public, is debated on in public and is voted on in public. I have no problem with us funding some of those non-profits, but if you are not willing to advocate funding those non-profits in public and taking a vote on it, then I don't think it's the right thing to do."
Gholston and Willis both defended the current method for funding non-profits.
"I can not understand why commissioners sit and fight the idea of being allotted a certain amount of money for organizations," Gholston said.
"Commissioners don't just wind up having money to go out and spend money as they please," Willis said. "There are certain rules that have been set in place."
Willis said it was necessary as five votes were needed to approve any request, and worthy causes were sometimes shut out.
He added that there are more rules on how this money can be distributed than in the past.
"This money is for the community," Gholston said. "This money is not for us to just give away. Yet we have commissioners that sit on the money and won't use it because they can't use it there way."
The three challengers voiced their disagreement with the current method.
"I support non-profits, and I think every candidate in this room supports non-profits," McCall said. "I think the question is more about process."
She proposed having an annual process, where every nonprofit makes a request and the county decides which organizations receive money and how much they receive at the same time each year.
Dockery said the board should not make such decisions unilaterally.
"That undercuts the authority of the commission as a board," Dockery said. "The commissioners are elected as a board, so if we can not come together and agree on funding non-profits as a board, how can we in our community run and work together."
Cooley said the current method is too close to "buying votes" for good governance.
"I think that if the board is working together to run the county, they should be able to figure out what to do about non-profits and support them all," he said.
Content received from: Scotland County Of Tomorrow, http://nomegadump.org