The best choice for SPSA

Published 11:26 am Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Southeastern Public Service Authority has a fiduciary responsibility to review all serious proposals to help the regional garbage agency out of its current fiscal mess.

Of two significant proposals now formally under review, however, one — Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.’s bid to buy SPSA’s most valuable asset, the waste-to-energy incinerator in Portsmouth — appears to be clearly superior.

The other proposal, ReEnergy Holdings LLC’s $243 million bid to buy the entire agency, is intriguing on its face, but it has one fatal flaw. The company is insistent that all eight of SPSA’s member localities, including Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight County, sign 20-year contracts to let the firm handle their garbage.

It was long-term contracts — 35 years long, to be exact — that got SPSA into its current fix, and member localities must resist the urge to go down that road again.

The focus for now should be to ride out the current contracts, which expire in 2018, without inflicting further damage on taxpayers, who are paying record-high tipping fees to dispose of their garbage.

Wheelabrator’s purchase of the Portsmouth incinerator would allow SPSA to retire much of the debt that’s driving the ridiculously high tipping fees and keep the agency afloat until it can die a natural and needed death in nine years.