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Smart Talk, Nov. 29

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The landfill operator BFI wants to put on hold its request for a certificate of need to expand its dump in Southwest Little Rock. Charles Nestrud, counsel for BFI, sent a note to the Pulaski County Solid Waste District last week asking for a 90-day suspension of a hearing on the request, noting that Little Rock is considering entering into an agreement with a private company to run the municipal landfill.

Mayor Mark Stodola said Tuesday that the city will issue a request for proposals to privatize the city landfill in the next 45 days. Stodola has said the move could get BFI's controversial Southwest Little Rock dump closed before its 2017 permit expires and make the city's own dump, at Ironton Road, more profitable. However, Waste Management, which operates the Twin Pines landfill in North Little Rock, has informed the city it expects to be able to compete to run the landfill if the city does move to privatize it.

Without a certificate of need to expand, the BFI landfill will be closed long before 2017 at any rate — it is expected to run out of room in the next two years.

Solid Waste District executive director John Roberts said he will probably allow the suspension unless members of the district's board object.

Enrollment up

The North Little Rock School District reports that average daily attendance apparently will be up about 50 students this year. That's good news, because the Oct. 1 count indicated enrollment was down 360 compared with last year. A spokesman said the big difference can be explained by a faulty count Oct. 1 last year that double-counted some students. Enrollment is important because state financial support is based on student count. There's no such good news for the Pulaski County School District. Its enrollment is still showing a decline from last year of more than 300 students. The Little Rock School District says enrollment is up slightly this year.

Pressure for justice

A formal group, Arkansas Take Action, has been formed to lobby on behalf of the West Memphis Three, who were convicted in the 1993 slayings of three West Memphis children. Damien Echols is on Death Row. Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin are serving life sentences. Recent DNA examinations turned up no evidence of the three convicts at the crime scene, among other questions about the prosecution, held in a wave of hysteria over the suspects' supposed satanic interests.

Restaurant owner Capi Peck of Little Rock is coordinating the group, which is “in the middle of a letter-writing campaign,” she said, “to bring people up to speed on the new evidence and hopefully influence the powers that be that the state is finally getting behind this international drive that's existed for all these years.” The powers that be include Gov. Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who are being asked to take action in the inmates' behalf — new trials at a minimum. A Capitol press conference to display names of those gathered in support of the effort will be held in about three weeks, and “Paradise Lost,” the HBO documentary on the case, will be shown at Market Street Cinema on Dec. 11, Echols' birthday.

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