Amadas CEO joins SPSA board

Published 9:42 pm Saturday, January 9, 2010

As the Southeastern Public Service Authority prepares to welcome a new board of directors that will govern its regional waste operations, those new directors spent part of their weekend studying the paperwork intended to help them understand the agency’s current status.

The new, 16-member board took office Jan. 1 following legislation last year that restructured the troubled waste agency and replaced its former board — which had been composed of elected officials — with business leaders and employees of the communities that SPSA serves.

One board member from each of SPSA’s eight member communities is required under the legislation to “possess general business knowledge and shall not be (an) elected official.” A second, ex-officio, member from each community is required to be an employee of that community and also has voting privileges.

James C. “Jim” Adams, CEO and one of the founders of Amadas Industries was chosen by Gov. Tim Kaine to represent Suffolk as the business-related member. The City Council had provided three nominees for the position.

Adams said on Friday that he expected to have a lot to learn about SPSA’s situation during the next few weeks. Pointing at a briefcase lying on a desk in his Holland Road office, he said he expected to spend the weekend reading SPSA reports and paperwork.

“I know just enough about landfilling to be dangerous,” he joked.

Actually, though, Adams has had some exposure to the solid waste industry through past business dealings. Among other things, Amadas builds machinery that allows timber harvesters to collect and sell the bark from trees that are cut, he said.

And Pioneer Southern, another company he led in past years, developed and produced horticultural products, including mulch, for Walmart, Lowe’s and other consumer outlets.

Those products helped take yard debris out of the waste stream, he said, noting that yard waste accounted for more than half of all landfill garbage at the time the company was active in the field in 1996.

The company was later sold to BFI, which has since merged with Waste Management, a leading provider of comprehensive waste and environmental services in North America.

“So I have some experience with solid waste,” Adams said.

He said Friday he has paid enough attention to the news about SPSA to know about some of its problems, including the extremely high fees it charges for disposing of trash at the regional landfill and the heavy debt load the agency is under.

“If what I read is correct about SPSA having the most expensive tipping fee in the United States, something needs to be done,” he said. “I want to make SPSA a viable organization that is not costing the taxpayers an arm and a leg.”

The agency’s financial situation, he added, “either needs to be corrected or (SPSA should be) sold.”

Still, he said, he’s keeping an open mind for solutions.

“I don’t know enough about it to have an agenda,” he said.

Other members appointed by the governor include: Roy W. Chesson of Southampton County, a management analyst for the City of Newport News Department of Public Works; Theodore M. Hardison of Isle of Wight County, owner of Isle of Wight Wedding Chapel; Joseph A. Leafe of Norfolk, a retired circuit court judge and mediator at the McCammon Group; G. Timothy Oksman, the Portsmouth city attorney; Everett C. Williams Jr. of Franklin, a retired engineer; and Marley A. Woodall Jr. of Chesapeake, a retired maritime executive.