Suffolk hears ReEnergy’s proposal

Published 9:26 pm Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Suffolk City Council members expressed support for allowing a New York-based company access to the records of the Southeastern Public Service Authority so the company can make a proposal to buy the authority’s assets.

Larry Richardson, executive officer of ReEnergy Holdings LLC, made a presentation to council about ReEnergy’s proposal. The proposal is to acquire all of SPSA’s assets at an estimated price of $205 million, enter into new agreements with each of the eight member communities to dispose of trash, provide a recycling-based program, and accept liabilities related to the closure of the regional landfill in Suffolk.

The new long-term waste services agreements would be 20-year agreements. For Suffolk, however, the new agreement would require a tipping fee, because ReEnergy seeks to have all communities pay the same tipping fee to dispose of its trash in the landfill. Suffolk currently pays no tipping fee in exchange for hosting the regional landfill, and Virginia Beach’s fees are capped. SPSA’s tipping fees currently are among the highest in the nation, and a proposal to raise them to $245 per ton – by far the highest such fee in the nation – is on the agenda for its April 8 meeting.

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If ReEnergy does acquire SPSA and follows through on its plan, tipping fees would be scaled in the first three years so that Suffolk’s and Virginia Beach’s fees would go steadily up, and those of the other six localities would go steadily down, until all fees reach the determined level. ReEnergy, however, has not been able to determine what fee would be needed because SPSA has not been forthcoming with its records, Richardson said.

ReEnergy also told council members about its host community benefits, which the city would receive in exchange for hosting the landfill. The benefits consist of a fixed amount per ton of trash coming into the landfill from all eight communities that comes to the city as revenue, Richardson said. The benefits would acknowledge that Suffolk does “bear some burden in terms of infrastructure use,” lack of the ability to develop the land and collect taxes, and other things.

ReEnergy’s proposal is a recycling-based approach, Richardson said, with a focus on recycling all possible materials to avoid filling up the landfill earlier than necessary. The company also plans to reinstitute a discontinued SPSA program for yard waste if it is able to acquire the authority.

Suffolk City Council said its staff will be drafting a resolution, anticipated to be on the Feb. 18 agenda, to direct SPSA to open up its records and give further consideration to ReEnergy’s proposal. SPSA has twice rejected ReEnergy’s proposal because they said they did not have the authority to consider it, but it will have the authority if its member communities tell it to do so.