Negotiated terms revealed

Published 10:09 pm Thursday, April 7, 2016

Suffolk residents on Wednesday got a glimpse of their possible future relationship with the regional trash authority.

City Manager Patrick Roberts outlined during the City Council meeting some of the results of negotiations he has undertaken with a committee of the Southeastern Public Service Authority board.

“The last three weeks of negotiations between the city of Suffolk and SPSA have been more productive than the last three years,” he said. “It’s been a really frustrating discussion about a few decision points the city has to come to in the near future. The spirit of cooperation, the willingness of all eight localities working together, has really demonstrated itself just within the last several days.”

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The authority’s regional landfill is located in Suffolk, and the city has sought a host agreement to go into effect in January 2018, when the current agreements between the authority and its eight member localities expire.

In the past, the city has received free disposal of trash in exchange for hosting the landfill, but its fellow member localities have made clear they would not accept a similar deal this time around if they were to remain members of SPSA.

Therefore, the city has asked for a host fee and other concessions as part of its new agreement.

Roberts said his negotiations with the committee have resulted in the following features of the potential host agreement:

  • A $4 host fee per ton of municipal solid waste delivered to the landfill
  • City access for inspection purposes
  • Ground water monitoring
  • Odor control plan
  • Landfill gas management system
  • Containment of noise

“It also provides for community relations and complaint resolution in a much more proactive way than we’ve experienced in recent years,” Roberts said.

The agreement would expire 20 years following the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality certifying the termination of post-closure care, a process that typically takes 30 years following the closure.

“You’re talking about protections in place for 50 years for the people of Suffolk after the landfill closes,” Roberts said. That would mean any environmental or funding responsibilities that occurred during that period would be shared among all eight localities.

One prior iteration of the agreement would have had Suffolk taking ownership immediately upon closure, Roberts noted.

“That would not have worked out to Suffolk’s advantage,” he said.

The agreement would expire at the end of 2017 if Suffolk City Council has not granted a conditional use permit for an additional cell at the landfill.

“We think this is a fair deal for Suffolk and for all the people in the city,” he said. “It scales the benefit directly to the level of impact we would experience by hosting the landfill.”

Roberts told City Council the SPSA board views the landfill as a “near-term backup plan” in the case of some kind of failure of its future disposal system. The board has issued an intent to award a contract to RePower South, which plans to convert polymers and fibers to an “energy pellet,” which can be used as an alternative fuel source.

He also said it’s possible the city may not have to build its own transfer station if it remains a member of SPSA.

“If it’s in our financial advantage to sign a contract with SPSA, it really makes the city-owned transfer station much less of a necessity,” he said. A location “in the Nansemond Parkway corridor” has been tentatively identified, he said.

Council members praised Roberts for standing up for the city’s interests.

“You have done an insurmountable amount of work,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said. “You’re doing a great job.”