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Our Community is the "Sacrificial Lamb"

Commentary by Larry Reid


say this having worked on countless boards and committees which at best provided an expensive education on what happens at a landfill and who doesn't want one in their backyard. I have served with public officials from Durham, Alamance, Orange, and Wake Counties. The committees were made up of mayors, commissioners, aldermen, councilmen, citizen representatives and more.

We've spent thousands of dollars having engineers and archaeologists attempt to answer the age-old question of what to do with this garbage.

When the studies were all complete and the reports were in, the bottom line read 'big dollars to be spent by government officials.' I don't know if those big dollars just frightened them or if they thought they would lose face if they fought to carry out what the studies recommended, but it seemed to drive a wedge between the governments and they decided to dissipate as a group. This left each entity or governing body to wrestle with the question of what to do with this garbage.

In short, the studies suggested that the governing bodies consider mass burning as a means of handling solid waste. This in itself seemed to be the first of the driving wedges. The second wedge was the price tag hung on this system. I think the third was the question of who would bear the cost and how.

These questions were never put to the community as a whole, in the form of a questionnaire or debate in a public forum.

Yet, it was decided by each executive governing body that this price tag, and the suggested means of handling solid waste, was far more controversial than landfilling or having to site another landfill. My summation from this was that the current landfills in each of these counties had just been dubbed the sacrificial lamb of the county.

Needless to say, in each case, current landfills were sited near low-income and minority-owned properties, thereby lowering the likelihood of great retaliation to big government desiring these areas for public use. When a matter, such as a landfill, is defined as a public necessity, local governments are allowed to use state laws which are on their side, thereby inflicting on local residents the fear that properties will be condemned in the name of other "public use."

These thoughts enter the minds of local landowners a little more roughly by way of expensive legal fees in court, when locals are forced to defend their ownership against local governments, to whom we pay taxes for the protection of our ownership rights.

I think it's time that governments face up to the fact that we all must pay. It is a utility, much like sewer, water, and electricity, we all create garbage. It is a byproduct of being human.

Now, as to who will stand up and say, "I'll be that garbage commission," no one seems to be on the way. Maybe it should be proposed to the State Legislature that a solid waste utility be created.

Until it is perceived that garbage is a necessary utility, and that everyone should pay for a portion of this utility, we will continue to have local governments bowing out to landfills.

  Larry Reid is an independent contractor who lives with his wife Karen in the Rogers Road community.  

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