Twenty years ago, then-Columbia County Public Works Director Don Bartles said this:
"It behooves Columbia County to secure the land before it is developed so they can avoid any problems. I may not be here, and the current county commission may not be either, but someone eventually is going to deal with it."
Bartles, who now is the county's landfill manager, was talking about "dealing with" a problem that comes into focus in just a few weeks when Columbia County's Baker Place Road landfill closes.
So how has the county "dealt with" the problem since Bartles uttered those prophetic words?
Sadly, not very well. Soon after his 1985 comments, an attempt to pick a new landfill site in Columbia County met with harsh "not in my back yard" resistance of the sort that Baker Place never faced - because when that landfill was built, there were only three homes within a mile of the site.
Finding a similarly remote site 20 years ago was hard enough. The county's growth guarantees it's nearly impossible now. And after witnessing the ongoing legal battle over a proposal to build a landfill in lightly populated Taliaferro County, no one in Columbia County has the stomach to pursue a new landfill here.
Thus, the nearly-full Baker Place landfill closes next month, and Columbia County will instead become one of the paying customers of Richmond County's dump.
But at least not all of Columbia County's self-sufficiency is lost as a casualty of its failure to capitalize on Bartles' foresight. County officials say when they shut down the landfill in January, some capacity will remain at the facility.
That means if a problem should develop with Richmond's landfill, or if a natural disaster should occur and a massive amount of garbage capacity is needed, Columbia County would still have its own space to rely on.
Too bad that sort of foresight wasn't exercised 20 years ago.
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