With all the current fighting and feuding over politics and the pressures of daily life, few people in Columbia County likely worry about where their garbage goes.
Private haulers rumble through neighborhoods every day, scooping up household trash and hauling it to the county's solid waste landfill near Appling. For most folks, it's out of sight, out of mind.
Less than a year from now, however, our county's rapid growth will catch up to the landfill's limited capacity. The last dozer-blade of dirt will cap the last truck-full of trash, and the facility will close for good. Private haulers will then haul our garbage to Richmond County's landfill.
What a strangely ironic twist it could be, then, if Columbia County's closed landfill becomes recycled for future use as a sports park -- especially if Augusta commissioners also manage to alienate private arena developers enough to run them and their money off, too.
Columbia County, in effect, would be swapping garbage for jewels. From our perspective, it's hard to see a downside to that deal.
Local development officials won't talk about specific plans for reuse of the site, but it's important to note two things: A sports park -- probably soccer fields -- would be built on county land next to the landfill, not on the dump itself. And the site wouldn't likely be an alternate location if Augusta loses its proposed civic arena at Regency Mall.
Still, reuse of the landfill site is almost certain. But what are the prospects of the proposed arena moving anywhere in Columbia County?
A couple of years ago, we were cautious but optimistic about a potential regional arena deal between private investors and Columbia, Richmond and Aiken counties.
Columbia County officials never got good vibes from the county's taxpayers, however. Then, when the project moved away from the counties' borders and to the Regency Mall site, any support from outside Augusta evaporated.
Since then, officials inside the city have maligned the private investors and abused their patience. So the investors have started dropping hints about bringing the arena here.
While Columbia County officials are open to good ideas, they understand this one is pretty big for a county our size. "It may not be feasible because it's terribly ambitious," says County Commission Chairman Ron Cross. Issues of financing and control would have to be settled early, he adds, and public involvement -- perhaps in the form of a bond referendum to pay for it -- would have to be a part of any such program.
Could it work? It's an intriguing possibility, but it's far too early to even speculate. For now, the landfill sports-park prospect is much easier to grasp -- and pay for.
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