SPSA clears another hurdle

Published 10:55 pm Friday, May 13, 2016

The Southeastern Public Service Authority on Friday cleared what could be the last big hurdle between now and the January 2018 sunset date of its current agreements with its members.

The board of directors approved a framework that would allow commercial haulers to use the authority’s disposal system for trash. A committee has been appointed, chaired by Suffolk City Manager Patrick Roberts, to work out the details.

Currently, commercial haulers pick up trash from private apartment complexes, businesses and the like and take their trash to SPSA transfer stations, where it is commingled with the trash delivered by member localities hauling trash collected curbside from residences.


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All of the trash is then incinerated at the Wheelabrator plant in Portsmouth, which produces steam as an energy source. The steam powers Naval Station Norfolk, and additional energy produced is sold onto the grid.

However, the board has decided to go with a different company, RePower, starting in January 2018, when the authority’s current agreements with its member communities expire.

RePower intends to use trash to produce energy pellets as an alternative fuel source to coal at a yet-to-be-built plant in Chesapeake.

Henry J. Huelsberg III, the board’s attorney, told board members in a special meeting Friday in Chesapeake that the goal is to protect the eight member communities — Suffolk, Franklin, Southampton County, Isle of Wight County, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

“The bottom line is tipping fees paid by the members are not going to subsidize commercial customers,” Huelsberg said. The rates for commercial haulers should not be lower than tipping fees paid by member communities for the same level of service, he added.

Huelsberg also disputed the idea that Virginia Beach issued the proposed amendment as some type of edict.

“This was a collaborative effort, not a Virginia Beach mandate,” he said.

After some discussion, the board decided to make changes to the proposed operating procedures rather than the proposed use and support agreement, so that the localities that have already approved the agreement will not have to go back and reconsider it.

Board Chairman Marley Woodall appointed a committee of Roberts as the chair and also including Everett Williams and Executive Director Rowland “Bucky” Taylor.

After the meeting, Roberts said the recent movements in the direction of SPSA continuing past 2018 likely mean a new transfer station in Suffolk, contemplated to be near Driver, will not be needed.

“This means that we should not need to build a new transfer station in Suffolk for the foreseeable future,” Roberts said. “It’s $11 million in debt that we can avoid.”