The Region 2000 Services Authority board debated the pros and cons Wednesday of allowing Bedford County to deposit its commercial trash in the regional landfill in Campbell County.
Accepting out-of-service-area waste from Bedford County potentially would lower landfill costs, but also shorten the lifespan of the Livestock Road Regional Landfill.
The choice is made more urgent for the services authority by numerous changes slated for the regional landfill in the coming years, most notably perhaps the opening of a landfill in Cumberland County that is owned by the services authority’s biggest client — County Waste of Southwest Virginia — which has said it will bring its waste to that landfill once it is operational, according to Region 2000 Executive Director Gary Christie.
Current policy dictates the authority — made up of Campbell, Appomattox and Nelson counties, and the city of Lynchburg — does not accept waste from any entity other than authority members, with a few special exceptions, said Christie.
Bedford County recently requested to bring its waste to the authority, not as a member, but as a commercial hauler. Bedford approached the authority in May after supervisors learned in April the county landfill only has about two years of storage capacity left.
Region 2000 Services Authority Director Clarke Gibson said the addition of Bedford County waste could offset some of the financial losses anticipated when County Waste begins taking waste to its own facility in Cumberland County. Though the opening day is unknown, it is expected to be about four years out.
“I think that from a financial standpoint it is very beneficial for the authority to consider this,” Gibson said. “Roughly the year of capacity that it would cost us is significant, but I think the benefits outweigh the cost.”
Bedford County did not give any tonnage specifics for the proposed four-to-five-year contract with Region 2000, Gibson said. It is asking if the authority would be willing to negotiate at all.
Assuming the authority were to take in 25,000 tons per year on a five-year contract, it would be able to maintain the $30.25 per ton member fee for the next four years and only reach a $40 fee in the final years of the operation.
“More tons, less cost,” Gibson said. “The authority could keep the same tipping fee over the next four to five years. If we didn’t have Bedford County waste, the authority would likely have to continue to increase those tipping fees over the next few years.”
The county has offered to pay the additional $10 charged to commercial haulers as a part of its contract with Region 2000 — $40.25 per ton versus member’s rate of $30.25 per ton — so the contract would generate additional excess revenue of monies by whatever quantity it brings.
Bedford County’s contract would generate $250,000 annually in excess revenue, or $1.25 million over five years.
On the other hand, accepting Bedford County waste would shorten the landfill’s lifespan by a year. Assuming County Waste pulls its commercial waste out of the Livestock Road landfill around 2024, the current landfill space will be filled by 2033. With the addition of Bedford County waste, that timeline drops to 2032.
Authority members worried an agreement with Bedford County would open the door to other counties wanting to bring waste to the authority without membership, as well as Bedford County bringing its 1,000 tons annually of wastewater treatment sludge into the Livestock Road landfill.
Campbell County Administrator Frank Rogers said though he appreciates helping a neighbor, he feels “lukewarm” toward the deal, particularly with the possibility of bringing any sludge into the landfill, and the threat to the ultimate lifespan.
“I understand that they’re trying to turn down the spigot. The bucket only has so much space and it’s filling up, so they’re trying to turn down the spigot to a drip while they figure out how to get the next bucket in line,” Rogers said. “Local governments, we try to stick together, you never know when it’s us next ... but I don’t know about this deal. ... I think we need to draw some parameters around it even if we’re going to keep talking about it.”
Lynchburg City Manager Bonnie Svrcek agreed, adding the authority needs more information in order to continue the conversation.
“I wouldn’t do this for altruistic reasons, or because they’re a neighbor in need,” Christie said. “I would do it because you are going to save 10% on your fees and you’re going to get an extra quarter million dollars in that excess revenue money. To me it’s an economic decision.”
Appomattox County Administrator Susan Adams said she was not sure if she agreed with the projected economic impact.
“We, as member localities, are obligated to whatever [the] debt service is. Whereas that’s a member locality that only has to pay a commercial rate, which is probably cheaper than what they could get through the [request for proposal] process,” Adams said. “We’ve got to protect the future of our county, also.”
Ultimately, the board dictated a list of parameters and questions for authority staff to bring to Bedford County — like no sludge being allowed in and the potential for reciprocity in the future — and agreed to reconvene in a meeting after taking the answers to the authority members’ respective boards of supervisors.
Also during the Wednesday work session, the authority looked to Adams for further information on a timeline for a transfer station in Appomattox County, slated for construction by County Waste, and its potential impact on the services authority. County supervisors approved the rezoning necessary for the facility in February.
Adams said she had “nothing to share.”
Adams said the Appomattox County Board of Supervisors should not be singled out for making a decision that could affect the authority — citing the Campbell County Board of Supervisor’s vote in November to oppose any expansion of the Livestock Road landfill on property neighboring the landfill.
“We don’t know what that [Appomattox transfer station] timeline is. We don’t have a host agreement in place yet, anything can happen,” Adams said. “Let’s talk about every locality. I don’t know why we’re zeroing in on Appomattox. We haven’t asked to leave the authority. There’s been no discussion about this. But we’re having a meeting about something that we shouldn’t even be talking about at this point.”
The authority’s next scheduled meeting is July 31, but Svrcek said it could be “fast forwarded” depending on the timeline of decisions regarding Bedford.