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SPSA terminates RePower

The regional trash authority’s board voted Wednesday to terminate its contract with a company that would have been its primary method of trash disposal beginning in January.

The board voted 10-6 to terminate its contract with RePower, said Suffolk City Manager Patrick Roberts, who sits on the board. He was among the votes in favor of termination.

The Southeastern Public Service Authority board has become increasingly concerned in recent months with RePower’s timeline. The company missed a January deadline for its financial close.

Following a lengthy closed session Wednesday, the board took four votes, three of them related to RePower and the decision to terminate.

RePower had proposed a plan that would transport household waste from SPSA’s eight member communities to a yet-to-be-built facility in Chesapeake, which would transform the trash into energy pellets that would then be sold as an alternative energy source.

That plan would start in 2018, when SPSA’s current agreements with its member communities expire and new ones take effect.

RePower proposed a raft of amendments to its agreement with SPSA, including five that pushed deadlines back. The financial close deadline would have gone from Jan. 25 to Dec. 31 — nearly a full year.

The deadlines for construction permits, site mobilization, scheduled start date and financial commencement date also would have been pushed. RePower also proposed a higher debt cap.

“The project cost had grown,” Roberts said.

After the motion to accept the changes failed on a tied vote, the second vote was to terminate the contract with RePower, Roberts said.

After an unrelated matter, the board took one last vote to authorize the interim executive director, Liesl DeVary, to develop a strategy and request for proposals to identify alternate means of solid waste disposal.

Roberts made it clear after the meeting that he does not expect the Suffolk landfill, which is owned by SPSA, to be the sole means of disposal for all of the agency’s eight member municipalities.

“The landfill is one component of a larger regional solid waste disposal system,” he said. “The board wants to take any necessary steps to reduce the region’s reliance on the landfill. While council approved the expansion of the landfill, the landfill can’t be viewed as the only solution.”

Roberts said he has had growing concerns regarding the RePower plan.

“My concerns have been that the RePower proposal potentially would expose Suffolk to future cost increases if it did not work out as planned,” he said. “I never could get a level of certainty that it really provided both an environmentally responsible solution and the necessary cost controls so that we could contain the cost of solid waste disposal for every household in Suffolk. I see those things being of equal importance.”

Agreeing to the RePower amendments, Roberts said, would have limited the board’s ability to explore alternatives for several more months.

Roberts said the next steps are clear.

“I believe the board is anxious to re-start that process to see what other technologies are out there in order to provide options for the disposal of solid waste in the region,” he said. “The board is very eager to resolve that and identify what the tipping fee is going to be. That’s our next focus, containing the cost of disposal.”

He added that he is confident both Suffolk and SPSA will be within their budgets, despite the RePower debacle.