State authority might help SPSA

Published 10:37 pm Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Virginia Resources Authority is considering helping the Southeastern Public Service Authority restructure its debt, but not without some stipulations, the VRA announced this week.

The VRA is the municipal infrastructure financing organization for the state, established by the General Assembly in 1984. It helps municipal and regional authorities with critical projects, such as water, public safety, transportation, flood prevention, airports, energy, and solid waste disposal.

The state agency is SPSA’s largest single creditor, holding about $129.4 million worth of the regional waste disposal group’s debt. The resource authority’s executive director, Sheryl Bailey, said VRA has offered to help SPSA restructure its debt.

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“We would work with SPSA on their debt profile to level out payments to give them some room in the immediate term,” Bailey said. “It would give them some immediate relief on the tipping fee and allow them some time to restructure their business model.”

Bailey said the debt that needs to be restructured includes some VRA debt, but noted that most of it is through other creditors.

“What’s most pressing to them and causing them the most difficulty and pressure on the tipping fee is not VRA debt,” she said.

The help will not come lightly, however. A resolution passed by the VRA requires that SPSA must give VRA the right to approve any future debts, sale of assets, and revamped business model.

She added that it is not unusual for VRA to help governments and authorities restructure debt, although the specific circumstances surrounding SPSA are unique.

“VRA is interested in helping the localities and supporting the citizens of South Hampton Roads and the commonwealth,” she said.

Suffolk’s representative on the SPSA board of directors, Councilman Leroy Bennett, said he hopes VRA’s help will make a difference.

“I’m hoping they can come in and help,” he said. “They can make sure we’re going in the right direction, and avoid heartaches to all the localities.”

Bennett added he hopes the tipping fee can stay at its current level of $104 per ton, instead of rising to the proposed $245 per ton, which is up for a public discussion and vote in April.

SPSA spokesman Tom Kreidel said Wednesday that he did not know any specifics of the plan, because SPSA did not send anybody to the Richmond meeting where the plan was discussed.

“We need to see it, study it and put it before our board,” he said.