SPSA discusses offers in closed meeting

Published 8:39 pm Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Southeastern Public Service Authority officials said on Wednesday they are reviewing proposals from three companies hoping to buy part or all of the authority.

The board of directors discussed the proposals in a two-hour closed meeting in the middle of its regular meeting.

Two companies, Covanta and Wheelabrator, submitted proposals earlier this month to purchase the regional trash authority’s waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth. The authority, which is mired in more than $240 million in debt and nearly ran out of cash in March, hopes a sale to one of the two companies will help it get back on the right financial footing.

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“We did review the two contracts that were presented to us,” SPSA Board Chairman Donald Williams said, holding up a three-ring binder packed with papers and identifying it as only one of the proposals.

“We’re continuing to negotiate on both of these offers,” Tony Thiel, SPSA attorney, added. The offers included proposed purchase prices, as well as the amount of the service fee SPSA would pay to the vendor to dispose of SPSA member waste at the facility. The board expects to make a selection between the two companies in September.

The authority’s board also discussed an unsolicited proposal from ReEnergy Holdings, LLC for ReEnergy to purchase the entire SPSA entity.

“Their proposal is still being reviewed by staff,” Thiel said, adding the board will act on the proposal, as required by law, in August or September.

The ReEnergy proposal would require the member communities to sign new 20-year contracts for waste disposal. ReEnergy would purchase the SPSA operation for about $243 million, which would allow the authority to pay off its debt. Suffolk, which currently pays no tipping fee in exchange for hosting the regional landfill, would have to pay tipping fees of about $87.50 per ton, but would receive compensation for hosting the landfill.

According to ReEnergy’s proposal, simply selling the waste-to-energy plant leaves the eight member communities — Suffolk, Franklin, Southampton County, Isle of Wight County, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Norfolk and Virginia Beach — with operating expenses and risks related to the transfer stations, transportation system, landfill and other aspects of the organization. ReEnergy’s proposal is a longer-term solution, it says.

In other business at the meeting, board members voted to transfer $940,000 from the capital budget to the operating budget. The move reimbursed the operating budget for money taken out of it to provide closure materials for a cell at the landfill. The board also discussed using excess cash in the operating budget, created through the deferral of repayment of tipping fees to Virginia Beach, to pay off about $4 million in debt. However, the board delayed a vote on the measure until a later date.