In July, employees of the Benton County Road Department demolished a barn without following the state asbestos program requirements, then hauled the debris to county-owned property on North Big Springs Road and burned it in violation of state environmental laws.
When The Morning News started making inquiries in October, Travis Harp, assistant to the county judge, said the county cleaned the site and took all construction debris to the landfill, but it turns out that the debris was actually dumped as fill into a ravine on property owned by Jack Garrett, a Road Department employee. Then in November, 21 tons of debris from the second illegal dumping were finally hauled to the Waste Management landfill at a cost of more than $650. The buck must have stopped there.
"It's not my job to know everything," said Benton County Judge Gary Black. He said he surrounds himself with good people and doesn't micromanage, which is why he didn't know about the illegal demolition, the illegal burning, the first illegal dumping, the second illegal dumping, the false information he and his assistant provided to the public and the press, or much of anything else.
The filing period for candidates for Benton County Judge begins at noon on March 3.