The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Waste-to-energy plan in Stafford County gets reboot
The regional landfill and its governing board are starting over on a waste-to-energy project, and this time, an environmental assessment will be required, and the public will be involved in early stages of the process.
The Rappahannock Regional Waste Management Board—referred to as the R–Board—voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to reissue a request for proposals that could extend the landfill’s lifetime, while also relieving financial struggles.
A previous agreement with Energy Extraction Partners LLC, signed in April, is now void after the Stafford Board of Supervisors reneged on a contract to lease land at the landfill on Eskimo Hill Road. Questions arose about the selection process, as well as details about operations at the proposed $73 million facility.
EEP was selected from three proposals because the pyrolysis plant presented little financial risk to Stafford or the R–Board, which would have kept tipping fees from trucks bringing in trash while receiving $100,000 per year to lease the land.
But before Fredericksburg—which jointly operates the landfill with its northern neighbor—approved the lease, Stafford supervisors took a step back, placing the project back in the hands of the R–Board.
Three options were available: keep landfill operations as-is and stop plans for a waste-to-energy project; solicit bids again; or continue efforts with EEP, asking for an environmental study to be done.
Whichever company wins the re-bidding would be subject to paying for a third-party environmental study, estimated at around $200,000. A study would take about five months to complete.
Much of the discussion at Wednesday afternoon’s meeting—the first to see six residents speak during public comment in quite some time—focused on the financial aspect of how to pull the landfill out a slump.
“This is a business decision and we are going to have to dig deep and come up with a business solution,” said City Councilman Fred Howe, one of Fredericksburg’s three representatives.
The R–Board has dipped into reserves for several years since the recession started, said Deputy County Administrator Keith Dayton. This year, the R–Board plans to use about $800,000 from its reserves.
Revenues could go up if residents were charged to drop off trash, as in Fairfax and Henrico counties; the R–Board charges only commercial haulers currently. But Stafford Supervisor Gary Snellings said the walls of the board chambers would need to come down to accommodate crowds speaking against such a proposal.
Cutting hours also limits fees from the commercial side of the landfill, Stafford County Administrator Anthony Romanello noted. He added that revenues from the existing methane collection plant are less than expected, and that the R–Board has less cash on hand and interest rates are higher than they used to be.
“We have to do something. We can’t continue doing what we’re doing, or we’ll run out of money,” said Snellings. He asked that companies that respond to the new request-for-proposals should include any environmental studies done on their operations, if available.
“I’m sure that these folks that come in with a re-bid will have some information they can provide to us about their process if it’s environmentally safe,” Snellings said.
If the company ultimately selected by the R–Board doesn’t want to submit to a more in-depth study, then the board would look to the other proposals.
County staff will draft a new RFP in the next few weeks and it will be published online for public review, the R–Board decided. Chairman Paul Milde, a Stafford supervisor, said he wants the draft “posted everywhere.”
A special meeting may be called for the R–Board to finalize the RFP so it can be formally issued. The next regular meeting is Nov. 20.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975