02/20/05 — Duplin commissioner predicts lawsuit on landfill issue

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Duplin commissioner predicts lawsuit on landfill issue

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 20, 2005 2:04 AM

Duplin County faces a court battle no matter what it does about a private company's offer to build a regional landfill between Calypso and Faison, says one county commissioner.

The issue is on the commissioners' agenda for 1:30 p.m. Monday in the Social Services community meeting room.

Waste Industries is proposing to build a regional landfill in northern Duplin County. County Commissioner David Fussell said he expects the commissioners to vote on the proposal during their regular meeting in Kenansville -- but he hopes they won't.

Fussell said Friday morning the company has had an option for four years on about 300 acres at the Anderson farm between Calypso and Faison. He said the company has offered $3 million to buy the Anderson farm, and for the past four years the county has kept the family from being able to sell their land.

He was getting ready for a regional landfill symposium at the Duplin Winery and had invited several consultants, including Lloyd Cook of the Wayne County Solid Waste Department, to speak to the Rose Hill mayor, town board members and others. After the presentations, he was to take a busload of about 40 people to tour the Sampson County landfill.

Fussell said there's going to be a lawsuit against Duplin County -- and it's the landowner, not the company, threatening to sue.

"I'd sue too, if somebody wouldn't let me sell this winery and I had a good offer," he said shortly before meeting the crowd. "They're taking it to federal court on a property rights issue. The county attorney said we probably won't win, and it will cost $250,000 to fight it."

State environmental officials told him the last five landfills built were settled in court. He said they told him the county has "messed it up so much by not having any zoning, we don't have a legal reason to keep that guy from selling the land."

The county will be sued either way, he said. If the county lets the company build a regional landfill, he said, the Citizens for a Safe Environment will sue.

Fussell told Rose Hill town board members on Feb. 8 that he wanted their guidance before the commissioners vote Monday about what to do.

Fussell presented findings from research into the situation. He said he had visited the Sampson County landfill, and the information he gathered there is the information he was sharing with them. He said he was going to take the same information to the boards of the other two towns he represents, Magnolia and Wallace.

The Rose Hill board voted to rescind its previous position opposing the regional landfill.

The Wallace board voted on Feb. 10 to encourage county commissioners to pursue the most cost-effective method of dealing with the county's municipal solid waste.

An engineer has told commissioners it would cost too much money for the county to build its own landfill. Fussell said Friday the town board wants him to negotiate a long-term contract for hauling the garbage out of the county. If that doesn't work, he said, the county will be forced to negotiate for a regional company-owned landfill.

"Sometimes you have to look at reality," he said. It's not the way we want things to be, but it's the way they are."

The Magnolia board voted Wednesday to not rescind its previous letter opposing the regional landfill.

Duplin County Commissioner Arliss Albertson had asked the commissioner board to go on record in support of a county-owned landfill on Feb. 7, about 30 hours before Fussell appeared before the Rose Hill board. Fussell reminded the other county commissioners that the county needs a franchise ordinance in place before even the county can build a landfill. The board voted to have the county manager draw up one.

But Albertson said even if the county owns its own landfill, the company could come to the county anyway with a regional landfill. He wanted to go on record one more time in opposition of a private company putting a regional landfill in the county.

Fussell said he didn't understand what the board had worked on for the past three years. He said he wanted two weeks to study the matter and to talk to the people in his district.

"We're starting to get emotions in Kenansville, and you can't make reasonable decisions when you're emotional," he said Friday.

Four years ago the county could have build its own landfill, he said. But in the past four years, he said, the county has had a 55.8 percent increase in spending.

"We've done Duplin Commons and the EMS (changes), and we didn't have the money to do either one," he said. "We're so broke."