Garbage rates may decrease

Published 8:51 am Friday, May 28, 2010

CHESAPEAKE—The City of Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties will be paying less to dump garbage at the landfill in Suffolk.

That savings could be passed on to Franklin residents, who pay $46.36 a month for garbage pickup.

Southampton and Isle of Wight residents pay for garbage disposal through their property taxes.

The Board of Directors for the Southeastern Public Service Authority agreed Wednesday to reduce the garbage tipping fees for its member communities, which include Franklin and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. Fees were reduced from $170 per ton to $150 per ton in fiscal year 2011.

Franklin will save about $94,000, Isle of Wight County about $380,000 and Southampton County about $178,600.

Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson said the county, in its last round of budget cuts, had already taken into account savings from a reduced tipping fee. He said county officials were “fairly confident” that the $150 rate would be approved.

“While it’s good news, it’s not unanticipated news,” Johnson said of the lower tipping fee.

Franklin City Manager June Fleming said the city’s proposed budget was built using the current rate of $170 per ton, but added that the reduction will have “little impact” on the general fund because the city operates waste disposal as an “enterprise” or self-supporting business.

“It will have some impact on the cost of the service to our residents,” she said. “I don’t know what that impact will be right now.”

Fleming said she plans to bring specific numbers before the City Council at its June 7 meeting so it can make a decision on how to handle the reduced rates.

The tipping fees were raised to $170 per ton in 2009, essentially making them the highest in the nation, but a number of changes since then—including the sale of the waste-to-energy plant in Portsmouth—allowed the board to reduce the fees for fiscal year 2011.

SPSA’s debt has fallen from approximately $218 million to $75 million, and the board is expected to use approximately $20 million from its cash reserves to pay down debt even further to around $54 million.

“We feel good about that,” said Everett Williams, who represents Franklin on the SPSA board. He said board members wanted to lower the tipping fees as much as they could, especially considering the tight budgets the member communities are facing.

“Any downward adjustment of the tipping fee from the current tipping fee is certainly an improvement for us,” said Don Robertson, a spokesman for Isle of Wight County.

Unlike Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties do not assess residences for the purposes of garbage collection. Rather, money in the general fund for both municipalities is used to fund SPSA’s tipping fees.

Williams, who, along with the board’s other members took his seat in January, said he is “just tickled to death that this amount of progress has been made.”

In addition to Franklin, Southampton County and Isle of Wight County, SPSA serves Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk.