2017-04-19 / Front Page

County to explore landfill options


County commissioners voted unanimously on Monday to explore options for closing the regional landfill operated by Republic Services.

The surprise decision, an apparent win for environmentalists and those opposed to the landfill, came almost out of the blue, on a motion by newly elected Vice Chairman Gordon Powell.

Powell was viewed as a swing vote between the two commissioners supporting a contract with Republic Services, Chairman Tracey Kendrick and Kyle Puryear, and two commissioners who have consistently voted to close the landfill, Jimmy Clayton and Ray Jeffers.

After holding a public hearing April 3, commissioners were scheduled to vote Monday on the franchise application by Republic Services for a term of 10 years, but Powell changed the time frame.

“I would like to make a motion to extend the franchise agreement with Republic Industries for not more than two years, maintaining the current per day tonnage rate, and (have) the county staff submit options for closure of the landfill during this period and that to include proper procedures, legal requirements and costs of implementing each option for consideration by this board,” he said.

He said options for closing the landfill had been tossed around before but he wanted to see the options on paper, and what they would actually cost.

The proposed franchise agreement is essentially the same as the one currently in place. It maintains the range of collections at a 60-mile radius, and the daily tonnage rate at 660 tons. Commissioners need a second vote May 1 to finalize the agreement.

Although the vote was unanimous, Commissioner Kyle Puryear, in an interview Tuesday, said he did not support closure of the landfill, but only voted for the motion to keep the landfill open for the time being, since the deadline for a new franchise was fast ap- proaching June 30. He said closing the landfill would take away a significant revenue stream for the county and also have a big impact on the city’s cost for waste disposal.

Kendrick said his vote represented a compromise to keep the landfill open while some tough decisions are being made.

“I wanted more out of the franchise and it was obvious that it wasn’t going to occur, so compromise prevailed,” he said. “Our budget, our residents, waste businesses, business community and our city will all be impacted by the decision to close the regional landfill. Two years gives us the time to answer some of those questions without rushing into something. In the end our commissioners all worked together to come up with a mutual solution to a very sensitive subject. I’m not happy with the end result, but proud of all the commissioners for working together on a unanimous agreement.”

County Attorney Ron Aycock said that in order for Republic to operate in Person County, it takes two separate actions by the county. The first is a franchise agreement, and the second is a contract. The existing contract authorizes one-year extensions in increments of up to 10 years.

Aycock said the existing contract provides that Person County will use its “best effort” to ensure that all the waste generated in the county will go to the regional landfill. Any contract extension leaves this clause in the contract.

“You could attempt to negotiate the contract to take that out,” Aycock said. “I have no opinion because it is an economic contractual decision what the response of Republic would be if you did that, but you could attempt to do that.”

In the end Powell’s motion was amended slightly to give the board the authority to negotiate with Republic for one year, and a subsequent year if need be.

“The motion is for a two-year period,” Aycock said. “You go one year at a time. If you’re through at one year, you’re through. If it takes a second year, you negotiate a second year.”

Clayton pushed for this provision because he said it was his understanding the county currently has an opportunity with Granville County to negotiate a price for solid waste disposal of $40 a ton or less. He said he did not want any windows of opportunity to close within the next two years.

Jason Torian, a member of the Person County Environmental Issues Advisory Committee, said commissioners made a good decision.

“Personally, I believe that, short of closing the landfill immediately, this is best decision that we could have hoped for,” he said.

“I have already heard from several citizens, many from the Mt. Tirzah community, who are happy with this result. At this point, we can only hope that the commissioners will follow through on these plans and be prompt, with respect to considering other options and developing a new strategy for dealing with our waste. No one wants to have this same discussion 12 months from now. It’s simply time to move in a new direction.”

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