Neighbors don’t want advice

Published 10:45 pm Monday, January 26, 2009

With the Southeastern Public Service Authority set to vote tomorrow on whether to raise landfill tipping fees to the highest level in the nation, the Suffolk City Council took an opportunity Monday night to weigh in with advice for the beleaguered waste disposal agency.

Unfortunately, that advice had not been sought by the city’s partners in the regional authority, and it wasn’t particularly helpful.

Council members “reluctantly” agreed to support a proposed rate increase for dumping trash at the landfill, basing their agreement on five conditions. Among those conditions were recommendations that SPSA review its fees each month and that the Virginia Resource Authority hold a summit where the authority’s members and stakeholders could explore ways to resolve its seemingly intractable problems.

Email newsletter signup

Under the proposal SPSA’s board will consider tomorrow, six of the authority’s eight member communities would see their fees rise from $104 per ton to $245 per ton. Suffolk would not suffer ill effects from the increase, since the organization’s founding agreement traded free use of the landfill for Suffolk’s agreement to have it located within the city. At the time, Virginia Beach negotiated a cap to its fee that would leave the city paying less than a quarter of the new rate.

Considering the situation, it probably wasn’t advice Suffolk’s neighbors were hoping to get when the City Council emerged from its hour-long closed session Monday night. Sadly, though, the agency’s financial woes are so serious that not even a unilateral decision by Suffolk to ignore the terms of its contract and begin to ante up for its trash disposal would make much of a difference.

SPSA’s illness may be terminal, and it’s clear that some of its members would like to pull the plug soon. Suffolk should be taking steps to protect itself from the liability of a landfill that must be closed within strict environmental guidelines and to plan for a future in which it bears the entire responsibility — and cost — for disposing of its trash.

Waiting for the end of the SPSA contract in 2018 would be irresponsible.