Waste woes: Authority trims recycling, eyes deficits

news-recyclingcenterMonday recycling could end with the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
PHOTO BY HAWES SPENCER

With revenues slammed by an ailing economy and a thriving private competitor, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority will begin closing the popular McIntire Recycling Center on Mondays as part of an effort to rein in expenses.

"In order to deal with some of those reductions in revenue, we have cut operational expenses 17 percent," explained Waste Authority financial manager Lonnie Wood, filling in for executive director Tom Frederick, who was reportedly out sick Monday, April 27, when the board publicly heard the news. "We just went line by line."

Such cuts weren't enough, however, to balance the Waste budget, whose operating revenues are expected to fall 32 percent. To cover the expected deficits, Wood proposed a budget that gathers over $1.3 million from local governments and pulls about $1.1 million from its own reserves.

More deficits could appear on the horizon, according to a memo making the rounds at the meeting. Penned by the absent director in response to a recent Hook story, the memo suggests that more service cuts and and perhaps a restructuring–- or something more dire–- lies in the Authority's future.

Frederick blasts the Authority's own service contribution fee as "shrinking" and "not sustainable," and it blames the contract that created the fee for having "seeded" a recent dispute between the the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle.

"If the future decision is to eliminate the Authority, it will not be because the Authority failed to succeed," Frederick writes, "but instead because the County and City will reach a conclusion that their future recycling and solid waste efforts need to take a completely diverse path from one another."

Already, the proceeds of the $16 fee have shrunk to the point that they're no longer the Waste Authority's main revenue source of revenue. Fee income is budgeted to fall from $1.7 million to just $1 million in the coming budget year, a one-year decrease of 44 percent.

Closing the McIntire facility on Mondays disappoints Watts Schwab, who– along with over a dozen other citizens– was using the Center in the moments shortly after the fateful announcement.

"It just gets terrific use, even on rainy days," Schwab said as 16 material-laden cars thronged the Center's parking lot. Fellow recycler Steve Shuman was less perturbed.

"I can do it whenever I need to," said Shuman. "As long as it's open on weekends."

Wood said that typically lower useage makes Monday the best day to axe and the safest to empty the containers.

"All days are busy, but that day's probably the slowest," Wood noted at the board meeting, held at the Authority headquarters, which was steeped this day in a smell giving ample evidence that it shares a site with the Moore's Creek human waste treatment facility.

Speaking of which, the bids to expand and renovate the treatment plant have come in, and the low bid was more than $9 million below the estimate of consulting engineers, Hazen & Sawyer.

The Water & Sewer Authority board, a sister organization to the Waste Authority, voted at its meeting to give director Frederick, despite his absence, authorization to award a construction contract to Adams Robinson Enterprises, Inc. of Dayton, Ohio in the amount of $40.3 million, with a state grant expected to pay up to $21 million of the total.

Wood told the board that the Authority had been facing a January 1, 2011 mandate for removing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous from its discarges into the Rivanna River.

In other activity, the board– which will be augmented next month by two new members due to its apparent insulation from the electorate– heard from three citizens who suggested that the Water Authority may not need to build its proposed new reservoir because water use has been falling over recent months and years.

"It's great that it's gone down," said Chair Mike Gaffney when asked if he might quash the dam. Attributing some of the consumption decline to the current economic malaise, Gaffney said he'd first need to examine the City conservation report which was presented to City Council April 20.

12 comments

Still no dredging RFP. County officials continue to stall the dredging surveys to gain the necessary information to learn the cost of dredging.

How can the Waste Authority spend $300,000 on a lawsuit they probably won't win but won't go ahead with a $250,000 dredging study of which $150,000 is required by law. This is crazy.

Who is the "thriving private competitor"? My reading comprehension isn't great so maybe I missed it???

Aaron, doesn't it make sense to find out what dredging would cost and if less costly and less environmentally damaging-- dredge first and build the dam later if needed. When we conserve RWSA charges us more money and when they oversupply us with water in the near term the rate-payers will bear the burden. Doesn't it make sense, now that water use is dropping and the dam and pipeline have escalated in price, to first get accurate cost information on dredging ?

All we have now is inaccurate information and concepts. Who would call this a plan ?

Vertico, "thriving private competitor" is Peter Van der Linde, although if RSWA gets its way he wouldn't be thriving long. Think it's either his skin or there's and looks like they're in a losing battle with our money!

"The landfill of the future just came to town," says Peter Van der Linde, who recently opened a $11 million recycling facility near Zion Crossroad that could solve our waste woes. But first he'll have to battle our own Waste Authority, which is suing him for $3.5 million.

see this story for more "COVER- What a Waste: Is the trash Authority going obsolete? "
terrific coverage by Dave McNair

http://www.readthehook.com/stories/2009/04/02/COVER-Waste-F.aspx

Aaron another bit of confusion is our community does not have a state approved water plan required by 2011. All we have is an approved water release permit which allows us to build a dam and a pipeline but does not require us to do so. The information this permit was based on is now inaccurate. The state plan must contain accurate information to win approval which is currently missing.

No responsible elected official that I know would proceed with planning for our future water supply with such faulty information.

http://www.readthehook.com/stories/2008/05/29/NEWS-CitizensFindNoWaterPl...

Downing-

That's why they call is the WASTE AUTHORITY.

Aptly named ... don't you think?

Excellent idea. I think the city is leaning in that direction. With the recycling they have now it is redundant to pay the half million it costs them to subsidize a failing public entity.

Changing the current 50 year water supply plan to reflect a recent several month or several year water demand trend doesn't seem very prudent. In fact, it sounds almost certain to leave the community with too little water in the future. Maybe it leaves us with just enough water, but wouldn't it make more sense to have a comfortable cushion with such a critical resource?

The most direct, effective way of reducing the R.S.W.A. budget would be to dissolve the Authority and turn over operations to private-sector bids.

Sold above the asking price?

Could have been due to a deal worked out vis a vis closing costs, etc..... Notice the seller's and buyer's agent were the same?