LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Friday authorized county administrators to continue negotiating a deal that would allow New Hanover to dispose of its trash in the county’s landfill in St. Pauls.
The agreement could result in Robeson County making an annual profit of between $2 million and $3 million.
“We’re just moving forward with the negotiations,” Commissioner Tom Taylor said. “I just want to make sure that folks realize that we have not yet approved any contract. There is no guarantee that we are going to get anything out of this.”
Steve Edge, the county’s Solid Waste director, said that the primary contractor under the plan would be Waste Management, with Robeson County being a subcontractor providing Waste Management with a place to transport and dispose of New Hanover County trash. A second company, Waste Industries, is also vying for the contract with New Hanover.
New Hanover County, the home of the port city of Wilmington, is planning to “mothball its landfill” because of limited space.
Edge said that New Hanover officials will decide later this month which company will get the contract.
According to Edge, the proposed 10-year contract, which includes an option of renewing the contract for two additional five-year periods, would call for a minimum of 130,000 tons of New Hanover trash to be shipped annually to Robeson County for disposal. The maximum amount of trash to be transported into Robeson County would be around 200,000 tons each year, with the total tonnage of trash coming into Robeson depending on what New Hanover County decides to do with approximately 60,000 tons of construction and demolition trash.
Edge is proposing that the county lease 10 trucks and 15 trailers to haul the trash from New Hanover to Robeson. He said that he is also recommending that 10 new drivers and a driver coordinator be hired.
Edge recommended a $31 gate fee for trash coming from New Hanover into the Robeson County landfill. The fee includes $2 charged by the state for trash disposed of in the county landfill.
The current gate fee charged to anyone now bringing trash to the landfill is $36.50.
“The fee for New Hanover would be a little less because of the volume of trash coming from that county,” Edge said. “No one else comes to the landfill bringing that much of a volume.”
According to Edge, Robeson County’s landfill has more than enough space to handle the amount of trash coming from New Hanover. He said the landfill has enough space and room for expansion for another 60 years and more, and the additional trash can be disposed of without hurting the health of county residents or the environment.
Edge said that the county’s goal is to pursue the use of new technology to dispose of trash in ways other than dumping it in a landfill. Use of these methods of disposal could extend the life of the landfill indefinitely, he said.
Edge said he could put the additional revenue to work.
“We can put emphasis on expanding our recycling program, develop our materials recovery facility, and improve the Solid Waste collection sites we have scattered throughout the county,” he said.
The commissioners on Friday voted six to one in favor of pursuing negotiations of a contract, with Commissioner Jerry Stephens casting the lone no vote. Commissioner Hubert Sealey was not present.
Stephens questioned the savings to the county if the county, and not Waste Management, picks up the tab for the cost of transporting the trash.
“From a small businessman’s point of view, I don’t see it being that cost effective when you add in the cost of transportation and other expenses,” Stephens said. “I thought Waste Management was going to bring the trash to the landfill.”
Commissioner Roger Oxendine said adding the trucking element to the proposal is the key to the substantial profit the county can make on the deal. His view was supported by Edge, who said that if it was not for the cost of transportation, he would have to recommend only a fee of $15 a ton to dispose of the waste at the county’s landfill.
Oxendine also said the proposal was strong because it provides for the creation of jobs.
“If we can come up with 10 or more new jobs that’s a plus,” he said. “I see this as a win-win for everyone.”
Commissioner Lance Herndon, who holds the seat on the board representing St.Pauls, raised some concerns about the length of the proposed contract.
“Even though everything shows we have a 60-year life expectancy at the landfill, we still need to be concerned about space,” he said. “I have reservations about a contract for 10 years. I’d like to see us look at a five-year contract.”
In response to questions about the possibility of problems resulting from additional truck traffic in the area of the landfill, Edge said that based on N.C. Department of Transportation counts for traffic on N.C. 87 and N.C. 20 there will be “no significant” traffic increase in the area.
“The trucks will use N.C. 87 to N.C. 20,” he said. “Once they reach Robeson County, they will have only 1.5 miles to travel before reaching the landfill.”