City sewer fee disputed

Published 9:04 pm Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Southeastern Public Service Authority and the city of Suffolk are in disagreement over whether SPSA owes a sewer fee the city recently started charging the authority.

Trey Huelsberg, an attorney for the regional trash authority, briefed the authority’s board on the dispute during its Wednesday meeting.

“We have disputed that SPSA is obligated to pay,” Huelsberg said. The authority is about $21,000 in arrears so far.

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“We just frankly, for any number of reasons, can’t have that go on much longer,” Huelsberg said.

According to Huelsberg, SPSA financed and built a two-mile main to transport leachate — liquid, mostly rainwater, that has flowed through the pile of decaying trash and been contaminated — from the landfill to Hampton Roads Sanitation District’s pumping facilities. An agreement between the two entities regarding the line was completed in 1987.

SPSA then conveyed to the city, at no charge except for a reimbursement for increasing the capacity of the line at the city’s request, about 90 percent of the line from the point it crosses SPSA’s property line all the way to the HRSD facility.

In April of this year, the city started charging SPSA for sewer service provided at the landfill via the main. It claimed its failure to charge for sewer service for the past 27 years was an error, Huelsberg said.

“We find it hard to believe — given the volume of waste passing through, they could have gotten $100,000 a year — that this was simply an oversight,” Huelsberg said.

He said invitations to city staff to sit down and discuss the issue with SPSA staff have been declined.

Because HRSD bills jointly for both wastewater treatment and Suffolk’s sewer fees and will not separate the bills, not paying the sewer fee means defaulting on its HRSD bill as well, Huelsberg said.

“It’s not as simple as continuing not to pay Suffolk,” he said.

Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said he would be willing to brief the board on Suffolk’s side of the matter, but no one spoke up to ask questions.

“If there’s an inclination to leave it where it is, I’ll certainly leave it where it is,” Roberts said.

Chairman Marley A. Woodall Jr., who represents Chesapeake, encouraged a meeting between staff members.

“I’d appreciate it if y’all would get together and deal with this issue,” he said.

Also at the meeting, the board voted to present a resolution of appreciation to Suffolk City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn for her six years of service on the board. She stepped down in July in favor of Roberts representing Suffolk as the ex-officio member.