SPSA: Fee may not rise

Published 8:44 am Friday, January 30, 2009

CHESAPEAKE — If you don’t like what’s going on with the Southeastern Public Service Authority, just wait a few minutes. It’s subject to change.

In a surprising move Wednesday, SPSA officials said they believe they have come up with a plan to restructure SPSA’s debt and keep the garbage tipping fee for member localities close to the current $104 per ton.

SPSA had scheduled a public hearing and vote Wednesday on a plan to more than double the tipping fee to $245 per ton, which would have been the highest tipping fee in the country. Officials canceled that vote late Tuesday after Chesapeake officials questioned whether the vote had been properly advertised as required by the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

According to Franklin’s SPSA delegate, Ward 1 City Councilman Barry Cheatham, the agency has permission from Wachovia Bank to divert funds in a credit line it uses for capital improvements to an operating fund.

SPSA eight members voted unanimously Wednesday to use the credit line and pursue a course to investigate the debt restructuring.

“That may buy us the time we need to get through the fiscal year,” Cheatham said.

He said now that confidence is high that SPSA won’t become insolvent in the coming months. The next step is figuring out SPSA’s best option for the future.

Cheatham said he’s pleased with the new developments.

“I’m hoping this is a start to a good working solution,” he said.

Southampton County’s delegate on the SPSA board, county Supervisor Dallas Jones, said Wednesday’s development was “good news that could save the county some money if it comes through.”

“I want to see SPSA stay afloat,” he said. “ We are all a part of SPSA and are affected by what happens to it. If SPSA went away today, we wouldn’t have anywhere to take our garbage.”

Jones said SPSA officials will meet today with bankers to iron out the details of the restructuring plan.