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Council fires back

Suffolk City Council members fired back last week at the Chesapeake representative on the regional trash authority, who wants the city to start paying tipping fees even though it hosts the landfill.

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

In exchange for hosting the landfill, Suffolk pays no fees to dump trash there. Virginia Beach pays a reduced fee, capped at $56.01 per ton, in exchange for its participation in the authority.

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 last week’s authority meeting.

“I just think, in my humble way, $19 million is too high for a host fee,” Woodall said last week, 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.”

In Wednesday’s City Council meeting, however, members had some words for Woodall. Councilman Jeffrey Gardy blamed the high tipping fees not on Suffolk’s deal, but on past mismanagement.

“[It was] poor planning for the future by the past board members, which might extend back 25 years,” Gardy said. “We’re stuck with what we got out there now, which smells.”

A presentation by Public Works Director Eric Nielsen noted that Woodall did not acknowledge the hidden costs of hosting a landfill, including lost development potential, odor problems, damage and trash on Suffolk roadways, and long-term environmental concerns.

City Council members also noted that Suffolk has a legally binding contract that was negotiated years ago. Councilman Leroy Bennett was concerned the authority’s board might try to vote to negate Suffolk’s contract, but City Attorney Ed Roettger Jr. said that couldn’t happen.

“One party to a contract can’t change the contract, in layman’s terms,” Roettger said.

Bennett, who attended the meeting in which Woodall stated his position, said he was concerned with the presentation.

“It was very disturbing that he would get up to make a presentation like that without all his facts,” Bennett said.

Selena Cuffee-Glenn noted she will continue to defend the city’s contract with the authority.

“I made it very clear his position was flawed and shortsighted,” Cuffee-Glenn said, “and I will continue to say that.”