Solid Waste Options

Published 2:28 pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012

BUCKINGHAM – Will the county continue to haul its trash to a landfill or will supervisors opt for contracting with Van der Linde and have the county's trash recycled? Moreover, will supervisors opt to close four unfenced satellite dumpster sites and restrict trash disposal to its five fenced solid waste facilities?

During its November meeting, supervisors and their audience listened as Assistant County Administrator Karl Carter presented information on several possible alternatives for dealing with the county's solid waste.

Following Carter's presentation and an ensuing discussion by the board, Chairman Monroe Snoddy opened the floor to public comment during which those who spoke favored going the recycling route.

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Although no action was taken, the board will review the associated cost of each scenario at its December meeting with plans to conduct a public hearing on the proposals in January.

Studying the Options

Carter began his presentation by explaining, “The board of supervisors is looking at ways to reduce the cost of solid waste while being conscious of the environment.”

He shared that in FY 2003, the county spent approximately $584,000 in disposal costs. Ten years later, in FY 2012, the cost was $802,000, said Carter, noting that those figures represent operational costs but exclude capital expenditures such as the cost of new solid waste trucks and maintaining/upgrading solid waste sites.

Offering that the cost of trucks is steadily increasing, Carter reported that over the last ten years, those capital expenditures include a new truck in 2005 at a cost of $141,000; one in 2007 for $180,000; and another in 2012 for $204,000.

According to Carter, in October, the board sent out a request for proposals for transporting and recycling the county's solid waste.

He explained that the service would involve providing compactors at all of the county's solid waste sites and transporting all solid waste to a facility to be recycled so that no waste would go in the ground at a landfill, as it currently does.

Subsequently, the county received one proposal, which was submitted by Van der Linde Recycling, said Carter. That proposal would provide the services as outlined for a cost of $588,000 per year-including all the sites and all the schools, he stated.

Continuing, Carter said the county's role would be to provide personnel at the sites. No county-owned and maintained trucks or dumpsters would be needed, which he noted would also provide a savings in maintenance and general operation expenses.

“All sites would have to be monitored and manned during open hours,” stated Carter. “And this is a change from what we are currently doing.” He added that all sites, except Dillwyn, would continue to be closed one day a week.

Before such a proposal could be enacted, Carter said the county would need to close the four unfenced satellite sites at Route 617, Route 657, Andersonville, and Bates Market.

Using a map to show the distance from the satellite sites to the five fenced facilities, Carter noted that the fenced facilities are all located on main thruways.

Reviewing the financial impact, Carter explained that although there would be fewer full-time employees, the county would need to increase the number of part-time employees. He noted that other increases include porta-johns at the sites, an additional buggy-top building, increased utility cost due to the compactors, and the addition of four new phones.

Carter shared that the impetus to look at other options was prompted by an increase in landfill costs.

He reiterated that vehicle repair, maintenance, and insurance costs along with fuel cost would be eliminated with the Van der Linde proposal.

Moving on to another option, Carter said the county could choose to continue to use all of the county's trucks to transport the solid waste to Van der Linde for recycling rather than haul it to the landfill as it currently does.

With that scenario, Carter said the county would pay Van der Linde $47 per ton for the solid waste. He added that the county is currently paying $44 per ton to Prince Edward for the use of its landfill.

He pointed-out that with this option, all waste would be recycled and no waste would be put in the ground. However, he said the satellite sites would need to be closed to realize any savings.

Recapping his presentation, Carter said the county has three potential options. The first option is to leave things as they are or leave things as they are but close the unmanned sites to help lower tonnage.

With the second option, the county would contract with Van der Linde for all services; and, lastly, the county would haul its waste to Van der Linde for recycling.

With the first option, Carter said the county would retain ownership of its vehicles and dumpsters; and, there would be no loss of several full-time positions.

Conversely, as rates increase at the landfill, the county's expenses would increase, he stated. Additionally, Carter said the county would continue with the financial responsibility of purchasing and maintaining all the vehicles and other equipment such as the dumpsters. Moreover, he stressed, all the waste would be going into the ground.

The second option, contracting with Van der Linde Recycling, would eliminate the county's capital expenditures for the solid waste vehicles and equipment while providing an environmentally friendly solution to the county's solid waste, shared Carter.

He listed the cons as being at the mercy of the contractor for rate increases; the loss of several full-time positions; closing the unmanned sites, which would be inconvenient to some residents; and, if the county wanted to resume handling its own solid waste, it would have to purchase all new equipment.

Carter outlined that the third option, which has the county hauling its waste to Van der Linde, would allow the county to continue to have ownership of everything, all waste would be recycled, the full-time positions would be retained, and any rate increases from Van der Linde would only be on the tonnage.

The cons, said Carter, include possible rate increases from Van der Linde, closing the satellite sites to reduce tonnage, continued capital expenditures and maintenance expenses, and the three-dollar per ton difference between the landfill and Van der Linde.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Vice Chairman Danny Allen questioned whether there would be any reduction of tonnage if the unmanned sites were closed. “You are still going to have the same amount of trash. You may lose some but you are still going to have 80 to 90 percent of what's in those cans now,” he stated.

Supervisor Donnie Bryan countered that closing the satellite sites could deter the use of those dumpsters by people other than county residents.

Allen responded that closing the satellite sites could cause people to throw their trash along the side of the road.

However, Bryan contended that the farthest distance anyone would have to travel would be approximately eight miles.

Supporting Allen, Supervisor Joe Chambers talked about the distance for residents who live near the Howardsville Bridge.

Offering that he has mixed feelings about the whole thing, Supervisor Bill Talbert said that some residents in his district who live near the Appomattox River are talking about going private with their trash, similar to what people do in some other communities.

Although he agreed that people other than county residents use the dumpsters at Bates Market, Talbert questioned, “How many people go into other counties from Buckingham to dump trash?”

Talbert cautioned that they needed to look at every aspect of the proposals including whether they would have to utilize larger containers. “I'm just saying to cover every corner,” he stated, reminding that years ago Buckingham contracted with a waste company and when that contract fell through the county resumed the responsibility.

Supervisor John Staton shared that Van der Linde is currently contracting with nine counties, including Cumberland and Nelson. “Everybody I've talked to is satisfied.”

He added that there was no way to ascertain what the tonnage is from illegal/improper dumping by non-residents. “You could have anywhere from 200 to maybe 600 tons a year,” he stated. “Do the math at $44 a ton, that's the savings in it.”

When Supervisor Cassandra Stish asked about the initial installation of the compactors, County Administrator Rebecca Carter responded, “They do all that.”

Stish shared, “Those sites I've seen up in Shipman are very nice. It's clean and tidy and never anything blowing around. They don't stink and there are no flies.”

The county administrator emphasized that this was a very big decision for the board. “To go environmentally better would be wonderful for our county but we also know how large our county is so we want everyone to talk to their people and think about this.”

Reminding that District 5, which includes the Glenmore and Wrights precincts, has never had any dumpster sites, Stish offered, “We just tote it where it has to go.” She shared that she felt her district would have a willingness to go with an option that does not put the waste into the ground.

Stish added that if they were able to reduce the tonnage caused by illegal dumping to help offset the difference between the $44 and $47 per ton it would be an acceptable difference “for the sake of going green and the sake of future generations” that she would be willing to consider.

Referencing Van der Linde, Bryan, who has toured the facility, offered, “He recycles everything. If there is wood in there, he chips it up. Concrete, he grinds it up. What he cannot recycle, he takes to JMU, James Madison University, and burns it for energy. He takes a loss on that actually but his philosophy is he wants nothing back in the ground.”

Bryan stated, “There is no fee associated with this either. I've heard rumors in the county that we are going to impose a fee. That's exactly what it is-a rumor.”

Staton offered, “If we stay the way we are going now, there would have to be a fee at some point.”

Public Comments

When Chairman Snoddy opened the floor to public comment, Crystal Martin shared that she lives in District 7, Gold Hill, one of the districts where there is a satellite site.

“I see people from all over the place using that site-not with Buckingham County tags and sometimes not with Virginia state tags. They are dumping their trash in there and we are paying for that,” said Martin.

She shared that the new schools at the Carter G. Woodson Education Complex are “green” and the students and staff are composting and recycling.

Martin stated, “We should be a trendsetter. We should be an innovative county.”

Sharing that she takes her plastic to Charlottesville for recycling, which in turn gives that area credit for recycling her plastic, Martin said. “We could be getting the credit.”

She encouraged supervisors to think about the long-term effects rather than whether people were going “to be bent out of shape” if the satellite sites are closed.

Concluding, she stressed, “We need to do what's right for the county for the long time.”

Pete Kapuscinski offered that he was all about recycling and applauded the county for what it is trying to do. However, he expressed concern about dealing with a single supplier and questioned if the county intends to put a cap on the increases.

“I do believe that you need to see some specific accounting numbers to show these alternatives and the long term difference in the price of doing one alternative versus the other,” stated Kapuscinski.

Responding, Staton shared, “There are some synergies in a longer term contract.” He added, “There is some thought on the board as to limiting, in some mechanism, the cost increases.”

Katie Dunkum, District 7, Gold Hill, was next to the podium. She told the board that she supported the comments made by Martin.

Sharing that she has two young children who accompany her when she goes to the Dillwyn site to recycle what is accepted there, Dunkum said that even though they are a family of four, because they recycle, they only generate about two bags of trash each week. She added that like Martin, she carries her plastic to Charlottesville.

“I recycle my cardboard, my bottles, everything. It just makes sense and its going to make sense in the long run for all of us. Please consider this,” she urged.

After Snoddy closed the hearing, County Administrator Carter emphasized that no action on the proposals would be taken at this time.

However, Carter said she would include the topic in the December agenda so that more information could be provided to the board; and, if warranted, supervisors could decide to schedule a public hearing on the proposals for its January meeting.