Anonymous postcards rile supervisors, others dealing with landfill

Published 9:57 pm Friday, January 19, 2007

On Tuesday registered voters in Pearl River County began receiving 6 by 9-inch postcards sent to them anonymously and charging that members of the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors were supporting an effort to expand the local landfill and to bring in more Louisiana waste, particularly toxic waste.
The postcards are believed to have been sent to the approximately 28,000 active voters in the county.
Because there was no information on the cards indicating either what company printed the card or who paid to have them printed, the Picayune Item contacted printing companies, including on-line printers, to determine how much it would have cost to produce the card. The prices given are the lowest from those companies contacted. Because of the apparent care taken to hide the names of both the printer and the person or organization paying for the cards, the Item so far has been unable to determine who did send them.
The postcards were divided into the five different supervisory districts, each targeting the specific supervisor for that district. The cards was printed in four colors on both sides and on a slick stock. The card was loaded with questionable and untruthful information about the proposed expansion of the landfill and what the district supervisors were doing about it, said all five of the supervisors and Mike Hall, regional manager for Waste Management, Inc.
The cards encouraged voters to attend the public hearing last night and to just say no to the proposed expansion.
In order to design a card of that caliber, the person or organization responsible would have to do a lot of work, spend a good deal of money and a lot of planning to stay anonymous.
For approximately 28,000 cards, evenly broken down by district to 5,600, the cost of production was estimated at $27,107.50 from an on line company. That would produce a 6 by 9-inch card, with four-color printing front and back with “120# gloss cover stock”, according to the company’s Web site. A company representative said by telephone that price also would include printing with 12-point type and with printing addresses from a mailing list.
Stamping with a 39-cent stamp per card would cost $10,990 for the stamps alone, for a total cost of $38, 027.50 for the cards. Any additional labor to put the stamps on the cards also could add to their cost.
Those targeted by the cards and others affected by them reacted differently than the general public, which did react as the producers of the cards probably wanted.
Richard Bennett, a semi-retired geologist and chairman of The Concerned Citizens of Pearl River County, said his main concern is the welfare of the land. “I want people to get involved, to participate in keeping the environment clean. The Concerned Citizens of Pearl River County had nothing to do with the cards.”
Bennett said he does not approve of the personal attacks on the supervisors.
“We have been trying to work with the supervisors. It is hard at times, but we try,” Bennett said.
He thinks that other people in the county who are against expanding the landfill could be responsible for the cards. He wasn’t sure who that might be and wouldn’t speculate. Bennett said he does not condone these kinds of attacks on public officials. Bennett said his organization and their attorney, William Jones, are working to give people the right to vote on the landfill expansion.
Hall, Waste Management’s regional manager, said that he was “disappointed that someone, somebody elected to put the mailer out and didn’t put their name on it.”
He also said that the mailer is wrong.
“There is no back-door deal,” Hall said.
Waste Management has been forthcoming, holding meetings on everything concerning the proposed landfill expansion and always inviting the community to the meetings, he said.
Board of supervisors members were angered by the cards and said they contained incorrect information. All five said there is no toxic waste coming into the county and none has been proposed for the landfill. They also said they are not going to vote to accept anything new from Louisiana.
The supervisors also said that because of the lawsuit filed by the Concerned Citizens group, there was little more they can say, though each had personal comments concerning the cards.
“I put myself in a position as a public official, so when there is misinformation that only affects me, I accept that. But, when it affects my family, I just don’t like that,” said Supervisor Danny Wise of district 2.
He said his mother has a heart condition and when she received the mailer she nearly collapsed.
“I was shocked, upset, it’s not true. There is no way to respond to these people because there was no name put on the card,” said Bettye Stockstill of district 5.
Stockstill also said it is upsetting that people are going to believe what was printed on the cards even though it is not true.
“One of the things I want to make clear is there were thousands of cards sent against all of the supervisors. I feel a large company or individual has done this for financial or political gain,” said Supervisor Robert Thigpen of district 4.
“Everything the Board of Supervisors has done with respect to the landfill has always been done in a public hearing. Just like the one tonight. Then we vote on and sign our names to it, unlike those cowards who sent out the mailer,” he said.
Thigpen said, “If you look back at our votes, you will see we voted 5 to 0 not to bring garbage from out of state to our county. People (who) want the truth should check on our votes.”
People shouldn’t believe someone hiding behind anonymity, too afraid to let people know who they are and they should get the facts, Thigpen said.
Supervisor Anthony Hales of district 1 said that he feels the anonymous mailer came from a rival waste company.
“The mailers were troubling. I see it as slander and a scare tactic. Of course I was upset to see the cards. They are not being truthful. They are using scare tactics to intimidate us, but I know that our voters have more intelligence than to fall for that,” Hales said.
“My decision will be based upon fact and what is in the best interest of the community. I would never put the county in danger,” he said.
“In the first place at the board of supervisors, it is our duty to take care of the garbage dumping set forth by the DEQ,” said Supervisor Larry Davis of district 3.
Last year the board had the same kind of hearing, and it voted against the expansion, Davis said.
“I voted against having this hearing until Waste Management can tell me what they are going to do with the trash. Until they can prove to me that they will recycle the garbage, I will vote against it,” he said.
He said got a lot of calls on the card and said 85 percent of the calls were people upset that he was being singled out.

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