EDITORIAL: Debate can be toxic, too

The public statement made Monday by the Marion County Board of Commissioners that they favor a solid waste transfer station and not a new landfill in Marion County will come as a word of encouragement for Marion residents who oppose the development of a landfill at the quarry site a mile or so north of Marion.

Some of those opponents have filed a lawsuit against the Marion City Commission, claiming that the commission’s strategy for annexing the quarry site was improper.

It’s not our place to editorially support or condemn the development of a landfill at the proposed site. The proposal most directly affects the citizens of Marion and they should decide the wisdom of pursuing such a notion. We do wonder, though, about the commission’s timing in announcing their decision, considering that two-thirds of the board will complete their terms at the end of the month and newly elected members will take over in January.

Perhaps commissioners felt a statement was necessary immediately because one was requested the previous week by the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Or maybe outgoing members of the commission simply wanted to register an “official position” before leaving their posts. Either motivation is fine. But the future of a new landfill rests, at least as it pertains to county policy, with the new commission that will begin work in January.

One newly elected commissioner expressed support for a landfill during his campaign for office. The other said he needed more information before deciding, but would approach the issue with an open mind.

This issue will be a testy one for the new commission because the process of getting “clean” information is so difficult. Proponents and opponents each have “experts” to bolster their contrasting positions. And both sides certainly have the emotional energy to make those positions heard.

Ultimately, we hope the will of the people will prevail. The path leading to such an outcome, though, can be treacherous and exhausting. The potential is great for division among neighbors, friends and even family.

Indeed, if not handled carefully, the process of deciding this issue could be as toxic to the health of a community as any deficient landfill could be. That would truly be a disaster for us all.

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