Page approves 10-year trash contract with Rappahannock

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This view looks down on the Battle Creek Landfill at the foot of the Massanutten Mountain and the George Washington National Forest.

By Randy Arrington

LURAY, March 17 — The Page County Board of Supervisors touted improvements at the Battle Creek Landfill Tuesday night as they unanimously approved a 10-year contract with Rappahannock County to haul and dispose of their trash and recyclables.

“What we are doing is turning this into a business,” board chairman Morgan Phenix said prior to a vote.

“We’re not exceeding our daily loading rate in the landfill,” Phenix added, “and this is low impact on our citizens and puts the county in a position of having a positive impact.”

By a 5-0 vote, the supervisors approved a “Landfill Use Agreement” with Rappahannock that will bring in an average of 11 tons of trash per day — or about half of one truckload. The additional 11 tons per day will push Battle Creek’s average daily intake to about 200 tons. The Page County facility is permitted by Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to bring in up to 350 tons per day.

The additional tonnage allows the county landfill to lower its overall costs, according to Battle Creek’s solid waste operations manager Jeff Blevins.

“It takes the same amount of fuel to process one ton of waste as it does 10 tons,” Blevins told PVN in February. “More revenue lowers the overall costs to the residents, and we want to lower it, if not eliminate it altogether.”

Better efficiency at Battle Creek has lowered the per-ton cost to process waste — currently about $26. In the county’s administrator’s budget presentation earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, Amity Moler reported that the landfill was “projected to generate $195,000 in additional revenue next fiscal year, while expenditures for operations have gone down nearly $13,000.”

With a large window before reaching Battle Creek’s state-mandated daily tonnage cap — a margin allowing for up to a 75-percent increase — many supervisors see current and future landfill contracts alleviating some revenue needs now and in the future.

“This is turning into a nice business for the county,” District 4 supervisor Larry Foltz said prior to the vote.

Page County residents may continue to take bags of trash to the landfill at no cost, just as they do at convenience centers near Shenandoah and Springfield. However, for larger items, residents are currently charged $60 per ton. The new agreement will lower that rate for county residents to $30 per ton.

District 5 supervisor Jeff Vaughn abstained from Tuesday’s vote because there were no tipping fee concessions for local businesses.

“I’m glad to see approving this will help our citizens by lowering residential tipping fees, but it doesn’t help with our businesses paying lower fees,” Vaughn said. “That’s an impact on me, so I will have to abstain.”

At least two supervisors expressed previous concerns over the rate that was offered to Rappahannock County — $34 per ton for disposal — but stated this week that they supported the contract now that they understood it better and changes were made.

District 1 supervisor Keith Guzy defended the negotiated disposal rate by noting the difference between advertised rates and contract negotiations.

“This is a negotiated rate… people don’t advertise negotiated rates,” said Guzy, who added that tipping fees as low as $18 per-ton were available in the “southern part of the state.”

Guzy also noted that the new trash contract would not add any new staff, would produce a positive revenue stream for the county, and the new truck recently purchased was not solely for the purpose of hauling Rappahannock trash. Several county officials noted that the new rolloff truck would be used for other purposes and was previously budgeted for to help replace aging vehicles.

In addition to the $34-per-ton negotiated tipping fee for disposal, Rappahannock County will also pay Battle Creek landfill:

  • $150 for each round-trip to haul trash from Amissville and Flatwood collection sites daily, which Page officials say will cover the debt service on the new truck;
  • A fuel surcharge (added in the latest version of the contract) to the per trip hauling fee if diesel fuel rises above rates paid by Page in the previous quarter; the rate will be $7 for each 50-cent increase above the previous rate (this policy can also be reversed for a $7 reduction for each 50-cent decrease);
  • An increase of 25 cents per year after the first year of operation to the $34-per-ton rate;
  • A $20-per-ton tipping fee to process recyclables; however, after marketing the recyclable material, Page will share revenues from the sale of those materials with Rappahannock.

The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors met Wednesday afternoon and agreed to authorize Chairman Christine Smith to sign the agreement, which she did yesterday.

This week, Rappahannock plans to begin ordering equipment. Improvements, including a new design and electrical upgrades, are being planned at the collection sites in Amissville and Flatwood. 

Rappahannock also needs to close out a previous agreement with Updike Industries, who hauled their trash to a Culpeper transfer station for $56 a ton. Rappahannock expects to save $200,000 annually under the new agreement with Page.

Rappahannock officials were waiting on final approval from Page before taking some of the steps necessary for the transition.

Both sides have stated that under normal circumstances, it would take about 90 days to implement the terms laid out in the contract. However, due to the spread of the coronavirus, plans may be in limbo for several weeks.

An “Act of God” clause was added to the contract by the Page County attorney granting a 120-day extension if either party is unable to meet the requirements of the agreement at the onset.

The “Landfill Use Agreement” between Page and Rappahannock counties extends through March 2030, with the option for two five-year extensions (terms subject to renegotiation). A one-year notice is required if either party wants to withdraw from the agreement.

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