SPSA eyes the future

Published 9:34 pm Thursday, March 26, 2015

Members of the Southeastern Public Service Authority board got a sneak peek at what the authority might look like in a few years during their Wednesday meeting.

The current agreements that govern each locality’s participation in the authority are due to expire in January 2018, so new agreements are needed soon.

It’s already clear that Suffolk won’t get what some have called the “sweetheart deal” it got in its current agreement — free disposal of trash in exchange for hosting the regional landfill.

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“There’s not going to be little side deals,” said Trey Huelsberg, an attorney with Willcox and Savage who does work for the authority. “That’s caused nothing but consternation for 30 years. I don’t think anybody’s going to accommodate any variations from the standard form.”

The new agreements will be identical, Huelsberg said, but each locality will sign its own agreement individually.

Suffolk is expected to receive some sort of concession for hosting the landfill; however, Executive Director Rowland Taylor said on Wednesday there’s been no direction how to proceed with that process. It could be part of a separate agreement.

SPSA’s eight member localities — Suffolk, Franklin, Southampton County, Isle of Wight County, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Norfolk and Virginia Beach — have been cooperating on their trash disposal through SPSA since 1976. The landfill in Suffolk became operational in 1985.

A significant feature of the draft agreement that differs from previous agreements is that the new agreements would allow localities to get out of SPSA if they desire. The new agreements, if approved, would take effect Jan. 25, 2018, and continue through Dec. 31, 2027. They would then automatically renew in 10-year increments, unless a locality gives a two-year notice that it wants to exit SPSA at the time the 10 years expires.

There’s also a process by which a locality could get out of SPSA before the 10 years are up. However, that process would not be easy or cheap.

The “special termination provision” would require a two-year notice in addition to paying the locality’s pro-rated share of the authority’s outstanding financial obligations, including debt, closure and post-closure costs for landfills and other facilities in the system, and any financial obligations under other contracts.

The share would be pro-rated by the percentage of trash the locality delivers to the authority in relation to the amount of trash delivered by all SPSA members during the five years preceding the notice. Suffolk currently delivers about 10% of SPSA’s trash.

“The goal is to provide members with flexibility to exit the organization,” Huelsberg said.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget was revealed. It totals about $44.7 million, up about 5.3 percent from last year. It includes a 2-percent cost of living increase for employees, but the main reason for the increase is a larger debt-service payment, which has been in the plan for several years, authority Finance Director Liesl DeVary said.