SPSA approves budget

Published 10:01 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The regional trash authority will offer 3-percent raises to its employees in the coming fiscal year as part of its annual budget approved Wednesday.

The Southeastern Public Service Authority approved a $49.2-million budget that holds the line on the $145 municipal tipping fee. The city of Suffolk still pays no tipping fee in exchange for hosting the landfill.

Four members of the board — including Everett C. Williams Jr. and June Fleming from Franklin — voted against the budget.

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The employees will receive their first raise in three years on July 1. The extra money amounts to about $23,000.

Other increases in the budget include fuel and health insurance. Some items decreased, though, such as capital improvements, equipment maintenance and other insurance costs.

The authority has long struggled with its finances. Two years ago, the authority was mere days from running out of money before it approved a plan to restructure debt that provided a short-term cash flow.

Last year, the trash authority sold its regional waste-to-energy plant to Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc. That sale provided a large infusion of cash that the authority used to pay down debt.

Also during the meeting, the board approved and discussed a number of contracts for things like hazardous waste disposal, security services, grounds maintenance and environmental consulting.

Some of the members said they were displeased with the way the contracts have been handled in the past.

“Some of the contracts, the way they were written, are just mind-boggling to me,” said James C. Adams, who represents Suffolk on the board.

“There is no way we can go back 25 years and change the way these things were written,” said Joseph A. Leafe, the chairman of the board and a Norfolk representative.

Finally, there was some discussion about discontinuing use of the Virginia Beach landfill and putting the material from the waste-to-energy plant into the Suffolk landfill, instead.

“Going back a year and a half, there was part of the board that wanted to immediately shut down the Suffolk landfill,” Leafe said. “The pendulum has zipped over, and now we’re talking about whether we need the Virginia Beach landfill.”

SPSA executive director Rowland Taylor said the discussion on the landfills still is in preliminary stages and may not result in any action at all.