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Partners jealous of Suffolk

Some members of the regional trash authority’s board of directors have made a renewed push for Suffolk and Virginia Beach to begin paying waste disposal fees.

Chesapeake representative Marley A. Woodall Jr. made a presentation at the Southeastern Public Service Authority board meeting Wednesday that called for a discussion surrounding the tipping fees.

In exchange for hosting the regional landfill, Suffolk pays no fees to dump trash at the landfill. Virginia Beach pays a reduced fee, capped at about $54 per ton, in exchange for its participation in the authority.

“I just think, in my humble way, $19 million is too high for a host fee,” Woodall said, referring to an estimate of what Suffolk’s annual tipping fees would be. “I think it’s wrong not to ask Suffolk to talk about it.”

The other six localities that belong to the authority — Franklin, Southampton County, Isle of Wight County, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Norfolk — pay tipping fees of $170 per ton. That fee was reduced to $150 per ton for fiscal year 2011 at Wednesday’s meeting.

“We cannot continue with these rates,” Woodall said during his speech. “We have to have the open dialogue. I think there’s a lot of solutions that can be worked out.”

Woodall acknowledged that Suffolk and Virginia Beach have contracts that entitle them to what some have called “sweetheart deals.”

“I understand you have contracts, and they’re legally binding contracts,” he said.

Suffolk City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn responded to Woodall’s presentation by pointing out there are hidden costs associated with having a landfill.

“There is a cost to be paid, and it’s not zero when you have a landfill in your city,” Cuffee-Glenn said.

Wednesday’s gathering was not the first time Suffolk’s neighbors have brought the issue to the forefront in the authority’s board meetings. In August 2009, Portsmouth representative Timothy Oksman presented a resolution to have the tipping fees evaluated. The motion failed on a 5-3 vote.

“I don’t think you can talk about disparity without acknowledging the fact that we have hundreds of acres of land that we cannot develop,” Cuffee-Glenn said at the August meeting.

Some board members wanted to discuss tipping fees at the board’s next meeting in June, but Theodore Hardison, who represents Isle of Wight County, recommended all major decisions be deferred until after the authority’s five-year strategic plan is in place.

Suffolk representative James C. Adams II said he is open to a fair discussion about tipping fees.

“When I’m in a partnership, I never take advantage of my partners,” he said. “As long as Suffolk is treated fairly, I am willing to look openly and be correct in what we do.”

Chairman Joseph Leafe, of Norfolk, urged patience and openness in dealing with the tipping fee discussion.

“The issues always need to be out on the table,” he said.