Ware Seeks End Game to Fly Ash Deal; County Commissioners Plan to Ask Company for Buyout Figure

By Hawkins, Carole | The Florida Times Union, July 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Ware Seeks End Game to Fly Ash Deal; County Commissioners Plan to Ask Company for Buyout Figure


Hawkins, Carole, The Florida Times Union


Byline: CAROLE HAWKINS

Ware County commissioners will examine the cost of buying out a contract to lease the county landfill to a company that wants to bury fly ash there.

Opponents who demanded the county get out of the deal that would allow North American Metal Co. to use the empty Tri-County landfill are still not satisfied.

Meeting in a closed session Thursday, commissioners voted 5-0 to ask the company for a dollar figure to amicably release the county from its nearly 4-year-old contract.

Under the lease agreement, North American Metal (NAMCo) was to have brought in fly ash captured from the smokestacks of Florida power plants and bury it in Ware County. The company would have use of the landfill for as long as it took to fill it with 11 million tons of ash. NAMCo also wanted to bury construction and demolition debris there. The county expected to get $19 million in fees, but has received nothing because NAMCo has not started using the landfill.

On the July 15 primary ballot, 79 percent of Republican voters favored canceling the contract. The question was not on the Democratic primary ballot.

The results of the non-binding straw poll prompted commissioners to explore the cost of getting out of the contract, Ware Commission Chairman Tommy Rouse said.

"This issue has been festering and causing problems in this county for years," he said. "There's been so much division. I'd like to see this settled so the people of Ware County can move on to something else besides fighting over a landfill."

Fly ash has been controversial since the county first approved the NAMCo contract in December 2004. But canceling the contract could result in a lawsuit and cost the county millions.

Though fly ash is not hazardous, residents are worried that trace metals in it will one day get into the water supply.

LEGISLATOR CHANGES MIND

State Rep. Mark Hatfield, R-Waycross, at one time urged negotiations with NAMCo, but changed his mind now that the county has proposed it.

In May, Hatfield said the fly ash ballot question would give voters a voice. When asked about legal repercussions, he said a "yes" vote would not obligate commissioners to cancel the contract.

"If the voters are in favor of canceling the contract with NAMCo, the commissioners should explore the merits of doing so and find out what the cost would be for canceling the contract," Hatfield said then. …

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