SPSA takes big steps forward

Published 10:25 pm Friday, March 4, 2016

The Southeastern Public Service Authority board took a couple of big steps in a special meeting Friday toward figuring out how trash disposal will work in the region past 2018.

The agreements that eight member localities currently operate under will expire in January of that year. The members have been working for nearly a year and a half to determine what to do.

Following a closed session on Friday, the board voted to issue an intent to award a contract to RePower South to operate a facility that would turn most of the region’s trash into pellets, which would be sold to utility customers as an alternative to coal as fuel supply. The board also voted to approve the form of the new use and support agreements, which the city council or board of supervisors of each member locality will now consider separately.

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Suffolk’s representatives on the board — City Manager Patrick Roberts and private attorney Dave Arnold — voted against both approvals.

Roberts said he voted against awarding a contract to RePower South because it relies on the regional landfill in Suffolk as a backup plan.

“The City Council hasn’t been provided with an application by SPSA to expand the landfill,” Roberts said after the meeting.

Roberts said he voted against the approval of the use and support agreement because the current agreement contains host provisions, and the new one does not. A committee is working on a new host agreement with Suffolk, which would be separate from the use and support agreement this time.

Roberts said during the meeting that Suffolk rejects both proposals the committee has made so far.

Liesl DeVary, the authority’ chief financial officer, gave a presentation regarding the three proposals the authority received for post-2018 waste disposal.

RePower’s proposal turned out to have the lowest system-wide cost of all the options, DeVary said. She estimated that option would cost $56.52 per ton in 2015 dollars, although she said that would not necessarily be what the localities pay per ton, as the authority also has other revenue streams besides municipal waste.

One of the other proposals was from Wheelabrator, which currently partners with the authority and turns the region’s waste into steam, which the U.S. Navy uses to power the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Remaining steam is turned into energy and sold onto the grid.

That option would cost $78.72 per ton, the most expensive of the options, DeVary said.

The third proposal from Republic Services would have SPSA hauling all of its waste to a landfill near Lawrenceville. That option would have cost $72.72 per ton.

The fourth option would have been continuing to use the regional landfill, at a cost of $57.37 per ton.

DeVary said “residual waste” that cannot be recycled or turned into fuel by RePower will be disposed of in the regional landfill.

Among the “cons” of the RePower proposal is that there is no operating history and that there’s an unpredictable and unproven revenue stream for the products generated, DeVary said. The company currently has no existing operations comparable to the SPSA proposal, although various components of the system are operational throughout the world.

“This is new,” said Trey Huelsberg, an attorney who works for the authority. “We’ve all acknowledged it and, to some extent, embraced it.”

RePower’s proposal features an initial 15-year term.

Roberts and Arnold weren’t the only ones to vote against the vote to award the contract and the vote to approve the agreements.

Those voting against the intent to award the contract were Arnold, Roberts, and William Sorrentino Jr. and John Barnes, who both represent Virginia Beach.

Those who voted against the use and support agreements were Arnold, Roberts, Sorrentino, Barnes, Eric Martin of Chesapeake, Erin Trimyer of Portsmouth, and Luke McCoy of Portsmouth.