Big decisions loom for SPSA

Published 7:28 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Only two years and three months remain until the Southeastern Public Service Authority’s agreements with its eight member localities expire, and the path that takes them past January 2018 is still unclear.

The localities must decide soon whether to approve new use and support agreements, which hinge on a number of factors. Some representatives on SPSA’s board of directors, which met Wednesday, said they need more information before they vote.

One of those was Suffolk City Manager Patrick Roberts, who said the details of the host agreement need to be worked out before he will vote on the use and support agreement.

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“I don’t even want to comment on it until we’ve worked out the details of the host agreement,” Roberts said. He added after the meeting: “That is the central issue for Suffolk right now is how our host agreement, including host benefit, will be defined post January 2018.”

In exchange for hosting the regional landfill, Suffolk has been receiving free disposal of trash it delivers to the authority. But that became a problem for the other seven localities in recent years, especially as their costs rose to among the highest in the country as the authority attempted to pay down debt.

Instead of free disposal, Suffolk has proposed it receive a host fee of $4 per ton delivered to the landfill, with a minimum of $1 million per year. It would pay the same tip fee as everyone else. SPSA has countered with a revised agreement.

“This is potentially a huge stumbling block,” said David Arnold, an attorney with Pender & Coward who represents Suffolk on the board. “The use and support agreement may not be worth the paper it’s written on if you don’t have a good host agreement.”

At the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, Chairman Marley Woodall Jr. of Chesapeake had suggested voting on the form of the use and support agreement at the next meeting Dec. 9.

“I think we’ve got to move forward,” Woodall said. “If you don’t have a date, you’re not working toward anything.”

After the form of the agreement is approved, each locality would vote on whether to participate.

However, Roberts wasn’t the only one who wanted to get other details nailed down first. Eric Martin of Chesapeake, Luke McCoy of Portsmouth, William Sorrentino of Virginia Beach and others chimed in.

“I don’t think we need to take a vote on anything until we have a better handle on what all the agreements are going to be,” McCoy said.

Martin said Chesapeake’s City Council wants to see all of the documents before voting on them. Sorrentino said his council has outstanding issues including what the method of disposal will be.

H. Taylor Williams IV, of Franklin, made a motion to have a presentation on the use and support agreement and the “good neighbor” agreement on Dec. 9. It was approved.

Also at the meeting, Executive Director Rowland Taylor said he would be talking with Roberts regarding a future cell at the landfill, dubbed Cell VII, which would extend the life of the landfill. Suffolk City Council approved a conditional use permit for the cell in 2007, but it expired in 2009 after no construction took place.

“The SPSA board and staff continue to talk about Cell VII as though the conditional use permit is still in effect,” Roberts said after the meeting. “We’ve put them on notice it expired and they need to apply for a new conditional use permit.”