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Votes

County Lowers Tipping Fees

A revised solid waste management plan that includes lowered tipping fees has Supervisor Drew Hiatt (R-Dulles) on edge.

"It would be the worse thing for the county to do. ... Loudoun County should preserve its asset," Hiatt said, urging the board to delay consideration of lowering the fees at the county's Solid Waste Management Facility or landfill. He wanted the board to decide after hearing from expert consultant John Lininger, president of Baltimore-based JLL, LLC who advised Frederick County, Md. on addressing solid waste capacity.

Lininger told Hiatt that Frederick County's decision to lower tipping fees resulted in a depletion of the county's landfill capacity. In Loudoun, lowering the fees could potentially cut the landfill's capacity from 100 years to 65 to 80 years, as stated in the revised plan. "He said it would be 'ludicrous' for the county to go down this path," Hiatt said. "It makes no sense to reduce the fees since it would take money from landfill operating costs. He said it was 'voodoo economics.'"

THE POTENTIAL CUT to 65 to 80 years represents the "worse-case scenario" if the landfill uses the lowest rate authorized and receives the maximum tonnage every day for the next 65 to 80 years, said Richard S. Weber, director of the Office of Solid Waste Management. "The plan authorizes implementing a program that seeks a balance between capacity conservation and achieving or approaching revenue neutrality, or covering the cost of operation through revenues," he said.

Lowering the rate aims to foster competition among independent collectors and requires less local tax funding for facility operations and construction, as outlined in a new initiative in the plan. Currently, the landfill is operating at a low tonnage rate and as a result is not efficient with space, since it is required to cover the daily intake with dirt, Weber said, adding that lowering tipping fees may help the landfill become more efficient. Tipping fees are charged according to the rate per ton or unit for various solid waste types.

Supervisor James Burton (I-Mercer) said the solid waste management plan is reasonable and responsible for aiming to achieve revenue neutrality while still providing for capacity. He said if the capacity is reduced, the tipping fee policy can be adjusted.

THE BOARD APPROVED the Revised Solid Waste Management Plan for the county's Solid Waste Management Planning District with a 6-2-1 vote with Hiatt and Delgaudio against and chairman Scott York (R-At-large) absent after leaving early. The plan outlines the county’s solid waste management needs for the next 20 years and identifies funding for the solid waste management system. The plan addresses source reduction, reuse, recycling and incineration of solid waste and explains how the waste is landfilled.

The plan includes several new initiatives, which will:

* Create a public-private partnership to construct and operate a recycling depot at the landfill.

* Restore a recycling drop-off center in the Purcellville area.

* Increase the availability of services for waste oil and other special waste collections and add to the number of household hazardous waste collection events.

* Increase regulatory oversight of managing waste dirt and solid waste burning.

"This has been an issue of discussion for us for some time," said Charles Harris (D-Broad Run), urging that the plan be passed at the board meeting.

"I don't understand why we're in such a rush to critically look at this," York said.

THE PLAN is due to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) by July 2004. The board set a July 2003 deadline for adopting the plan before the new board takes office in 2004. The seven towns in the county are required to adopt the plan before the county can submit it to DEQ for the entire County Solid Waste Management Planning District.