New SPSA costs Suffolk millions

Published 10:41 pm Thursday, January 10, 2019

After years of free trash disposal, Suffolk has paid more than $2 million in solid waste charges from the Southeastern Public Service Authority in about a year since the implementation of new agreements between the authority and the communities it serves.

The new agreements with its member communities — Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight County, Southampton County, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Virginia Beach — began on Jan. 25, 2018.

Among the changes in the new use and support agreements was the cancellation of Suffolk’s free disposal. In years past, Suffolk did not have to pay a tipping fee in exchange hosting the regional landfill located on Bob Foeller Drive, off U.S. Route 58. This so-called “sweetheart deal” caused consternation for other members in years past, especially as the other localities paid some of the highest disposal fees in the country while the authority struggled to pay off mountains of debt.

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According to the SPSA Board of Directors meeting minutes, SPSA Executive Director Liesl DeVary announced at the March 28 meeting that the authority was already debt free just two months after the implementation of the new use agreement.

Since Suffolk has begun paying the tipping fee — now $62 with the new use agreement — they have paid SPSA $2.23 million for solid waste charges from Jan. 25 to Dec. 31, 2018, according to city spokeswoman Diana Klink.

The authority has continued to cut costs by having trash from Suffolk, Isle of Wight and Franklin going to the landfill rather than to the Wheelabrator waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth. This saves SPSA the cost of hauling the waste to Portsmouth.

This cost-cutting measure, though, increases the tonnage delivered to the landfill at a rapid pace.

In 2017, about 35,469 tons of waste was hauled to the regional landfill in Suffolk, but with the additional waste going directly to landfill, the number has more than doubled, according to Landfill and Environmental Superintendent Henry Strickland.

For 2018, beginning Jan. 25, the regional landfill received 113,501 tons of waste.

While the city no longer gets free waste disposal for hosting the landfill, Suffolk receives $4 per ton as a host fee.

“The city receives quarterly payments from SPSA for the host fee. To date, we have received three quarterly payments, running from Jan. 25, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2018,” Klink stated. “We have just concluded the fourth quarter on Dec. 31 but have not yet received the statement and payment. As of Sept. 30, the city has received $343,964 in host fee payments from SPSA.”

Based on tonnage reports, the city can expect to receive at least another $100,000 for the fourth quarter, totaling less than half a million dollars for the first year of the new host fee.