The devil’s in the details

Published 8:17 am Friday, January 2, 2009

“Go to the devil.”

That’s pretty much what official from Suffolk, and more than likely also Virginia Beach, are saying at the suggestion that either of their constituencies chip in to help the Southeastern Public Service Authority right itself.

Officials from both cities would point out that they have signed agreements with SPSA — sweetheart deals, honestly — that allow them to sit on the sidelines with amusement at the suffering of everyone else.

Virginia Beach’s tipping fee is capped at about $54 per ton. Suffolk doesn’t pay a tipping fee at all. These arrangements are enshrined in their contracts.

So it will be up to the citizens of six other communities — including Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County — to shoulder the burden for all eight localities in SPSA and pay a $104 tipping fee. There is also the very real possibility that these citizens will be paying more, much more, for at least the next five months. SPSA officials have warned that tipping fees could be between $240 and $260.

Now a proposal has come to light that ReEnergy Holdings LLC, a company based in New York state, is interested in purchasing SPSA. It would buy the authority’s assets and pay off its debt, which is about $234 million.

The company also wants to resolve the issue of disparity in tipping fees, and plans to negotiate separately with both Suffolk and Virginia Beach. It thinks both cities will agree to phase out the cities’ sweetheart deals in two to three years.

Good luck with that.

All eight communities must agree to a sale to ReEnergy, or any other private company, for that matter. We think it is extremely unlikely that either Suffolk or Virginia Beach would accept any proposal that doesn’t give them some kind of a carrot.

Our elected officials must examine ReEnergy’s proposal to determine whether the company is an angel or something decidedly more devilish. Under the current circumstances, it’s nice to have some options to choose from.

But we also encourage our leaders to give serious consideration to the alternative idea of a “rural Western Tidewater” collaboration among Franklin, Isle of Wight and Southampton.

There needs to be a decision made soon about who will be managing solid waste in our area. And while the concept of a siting a landfill in Southampton is controversial, maybe a smaller landfill — one that could accommodate the needs of the three aforementioned communities — would be more palatable to the citizens there.

It’s obvious that any and all ideas are welcome at this juncture. Hopefully some day soon the region won’t be faced with the highest tipping fees in the nation.

And who knows? Maybe some day soon, we’ll be the ones telling Suffolk and Virginia Beach to go to … well, you know.