Authority should continue, report recommends

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, November 20, 2008

SUFFOLK—A study released this week recommends that the eight member communities of the Southeastern Public Service Authority continue their cooperative arrangement past 2018 and begin looking for another landfill site immediately.

SCS Engineers performed the $248,000 study, which was authorized by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. The study recommends the eight member communities — the cities of Suffolk, Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach and the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton — make up their minds quickly about whether to continue cooperating on solid waste disposal.

SPSA currently operates under a mandate that expires in 2018. The study was charged with making recommendations for what to do during the period from 2018 to 2047.

Several scenarios were considered when attempting to determine if the communities should cooperate past 2018.

The top recommendation was that SPSA continue to function, because it is well-established, has facilities and buildings in the area that will still be useful past 2018, and must continue some degree of cooperation anyway, because of responsibilities related to the current landfill.

However, the study warned that the authority must manage its debt more appropriately, acknowledging that borrowing money to cover normal operating expenses “is viewed as a poor management practice and should be disallowed under any new regional organization.”

The regional waste authority has been taken to task by citizens and media for extravagant spending, poor debt management and lack of transparency in its financial dealings.

The study also recommended opening a new landfill in the region and locating it as centrally as possible to reduce fuel costs. In addition, operating the waste-to-energy plant will result in higher costs in almost every scenario where the landfill is in the region.

The member communities were implored to make a decision on cooperation as soon as possible, since siting and constructing a new regional landfill will likely take at least 10 years.