Have you ever had someone ask, “What do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news?”
Let’s start with the good news. For all the naysayers of consolidation and the requirement in the legislation that joined the city and county that the new government had to cut its budget by 20 percent within five years: surprise, it’s a year ahead of schedule.
Much of the savings comes from the 235 employees that took the early retirement offer. While that seems like a lot of people, and it is, the county is only booking 105 of those retirements on its balance sheet. Some of those positions in public safety will have to be filled. The bottom line is, the county will save about $2.9 million, and just like a hire is a recurring expense, when a position is eliminated, there’s a recurring savings.
That’s the good news. But now for the bad.
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It centers around something that is out of sight and mind. We wheel our herbie-curbies to the side of the road to be picked up with hardly a thought of where the garbage eventually ends up. It all ends up in one of two landfills, and both are coming to the end of their life cycles. We have kicked this can down the road and can’t kick it much longer. The main landfill on Walker Road has about four years remaining and to close it will have a hefty price tag of $10 million. The inert landfill, right next to the main one, has to close early next year at a cost of $1.1 million.
The issues surrounding the landfills have been vexing for years, but one of the solutions has also been around for decades, although we haven’t always used it effectively: Recycling. The more residents recycle, the longer our landfills remain viable. While about 2,000 households have single-stream recycling available, expanding that service could give the county a few more options and more time to pay for the shutdown. Also, in an arrangement that’s a little complicated to explain here, the Macon Water Authority will chip in $7.5 million from a dedicated fund that exists to maintain the levee and help close the landfill.
Most politicians can’t tout closing a landfill in their campaign literature. Their constituents, for the most part, don’t care. It’s a shame this can has been kicked down the road so many times before, but the good news is, it may finally come to rest for good, but the takeaway for each of us is to demand a vigorous recycling effort.