Bill would overhaul SPSA

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, February 25, 2009

RICHMOND—A bill giving the governor authority to appoint board members of the troubled Southeastern Public Service Authority has passed both General Assembly chambers after a unanimous vote in the Senate on Monday.

The bill, which awaits Gov. Tim Kaine’s signature, states that each of SPSA’s eight member localities, including Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County, would nominate three candidates, none of whom could be an elected official. After selection, a board member would be limited to serving a four-year term.

Gordon Hickey, Kaine’s press secretary, said the governor will take care and weigh his decision thoughtfully.

“As is the case with any bill, Gov. Kaine will give it careful consideration before deciding what to do,” he said.

Franklin’s current SPSA board delegate, Barry Cheatham, said, “The move would mean a dramatic change to the composition of the board.”

SPSA, which also serves Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk, must find a way to reduce or restructure its $240 million debt or it will have to cease operations by April 1, according to agency officials.

Today, the board will hear a presentation by Wheelabrator Technologies, a New Hampshire firm looking to buy SPSA’s assets and take over its operations.

Though such a purchase may solve SPSA’s long-term woes, Cheatham, warned it might not be enough to save operations in the short term.

Franklin officials are encouraging citizens to attend the meeting at 9:30 a.m. today at the SPSA headquarters, 723 Woodlake Drive in Chesapeake.