UNRESOLVED: Brundidge landfill dispute ongoing
Published 3:00 am Saturday, March 26, 2016
The City of Brundidge hopes the Alabama Supreme Court will intervene the ongoing dispute over ownership of the landfill.
Britt Thomas, city manager, said the city has filed a petition to the Alabama Supreme Court after the state’s Court of Civil Appeals upheld the purchase of the landfill by Brundidge Acquisitions Inc., an entity formed and funded by the Coffee County Commission.
“The City of Brundidge respectively believes that the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals erred with respect to certain reasoning and conclusions within its opinion affirming the lower court’s ruling,” Thomas said. “Given the importance of the matter to the city, the city elected to appeal the court’s ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court.”
Thomas said as a measure of importance in the case, the Alabama League of Municipalities has also petitioned for permission to file a “friend of the court” amicus brief that argues in support of the City of Brundidge petition.
Thomas said the city and the City of Brundidge Solid Waste Authority are not opposed to the acquisition of the landfill by a responsible, legal bidder.
“However, we strongly believe that no one is served by pretending that the Coffee County Commission is such a party, particularly as later events have proven,” Thomas said.
The battle for the Brundidge Landfill began in October 2012 when the Coffee County Commission passed resolutions authorizing the expenditure of $6 million to acquire the landfill located in the City of Brundidge.
“Provisions of state law forbid a county from acquiring property within the boundaries of a municipality, and thus forbid what the Coffee County Commission planned to do,” Thomas said. “The Coffee County Commission avoided this limitation by creating an alter-ego corporation, Brundidge Acquisitions, LLC, which is 100 percent funded and operated by the commission, to purchase the landfill for the Commission.”
Thomas said the City of Brundidge was “gravely” concerned with the Coffee County Commission’s action.
“The city believed that, if the Commission acquired control of the landfill, then the Commission would either close the landfill or severely limit the landfill’s operations in order to steer landfill customers to the landfill in Coffee County that the Commission operates,” Thomas said. “The Brundidge landfill is an essential part of the city’s long-range plans for waste disposal and industrial recruitment. Unfortunately, subsequent events have proven that to be precisely the case.”
Thomas said the City of Brundidge and City of Brundidge Solid Waste Disposal Authority regretted the necessity of the legal action, but simply could not afford to allow operation of the Brundidge landfill, which is essential to the growth and development of the City, to be controlled by an external government that does not answer to the citizens of Brundidge and to whose interest is in fact directly contrary to what is good for commercial and industrial entities and the citizens of Brundidge and Pike County.
“After Brundidge Acquisition acquired the landfill, the Coffee County Commission has allowed the landfill to accept only the bare minimum tonnage needed to make the technical claim that the landfill is open. In this way, the Commission avoids incurring costly closure requirements, but for all practical purposes, the landfill is closed, and solid wastes from Pike County and the City of Brundidge that formerly went to the Brundidge landfill now go to the Commission’s landfill in Coffee County.”
Thomas said Brundidge officials expressed their concerns prior to the October 2012 meeting in Coffee County and tried unsuccessfully to meet directly with the commissioners to discuss the issue.
Brundidge officials first sued to challenge the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s transfer of the landfill permit from the former owner to Brundidge Acquisitions without the city’s approval.
“This complaint sought both a judicial declaration that the Coffee County Commission, in partnership with Brundidge Acquisitions, LLC, cannot purchase the landfill, and an injunction to prevent the proposed purchase,” Thomas said. “The city and the authority also sought a judicial declaration, and an injunction, that the purchase would violate the ‘host government agreement,’ which is a document necessary for the landfill to operate and which expressly prohibits the sale of the landfill and the assigning of the host government agreement without the express approval of the Brundidge Solid Waste Disposal Authority.”
The circuit court denied the request, prompting Brundidge officials to appeal to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. “Unfortunately, that court affirmed the lower court’s ruling on February 5,” Thomas said.
Rod Morgan, Coffee County Administrator, said Coffee County believes it is correct on the law. “We are glad to see the Court of Civil Appeals’ opinion validates this belief,” Morgan said. “However, as this matter is still pending, I have no further comment at this time.”