Localities to discuss draft agreement

Published 9:52 pm Friday, December 11, 2015

After a closed session that lasted more than five hours, the Southeastern Public Service Authority board on Wednesday voted to send a draft use and support agreement to the eight member communities for their deliberation.

The agreements will be needed come January 2018, when the current agreements between the localities and the authority expire. But they need to be approved far ahead of that, because officials need to make a multitude of decisions based on them.

SPSA Executive Director Rowland Taylor declined to provide a copy of the draft agreement, citing the “working papers” exemption in Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. He said the localities will provide comments on the draft to SPSA for further consideration. Following receipt of those comments, the board will adopt a final agreement at a future meeting, which will then be resubmitted to the communities for action. It would become public at that time, he said.

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Board members heard an open-meeting presentation in March 2015 about what the use and support agreements might look like. The agreements would be identical in form, SPSA attorney Trey Huelsberg told the authority board at that time. Suffolk would no longer receive free disposal for its trash in exchange for hosting the landfill, but it is expected to get some kind of concession through a separate agreement.

A significant feature of the draft agreement as proposed in March 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 expire.

The March presentation also proposed 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 percent of SPSA’s trash.

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.