New Hanover County commissioners voted against the contract for the 20-year operation of the Sustainable Energy Facility by Covanta Energy with a vote of 3-2 at their regular meeting Monday, Sept. 17.
Chairman Ted Davis and Commissioners Brian Berger and Rick Catlin voted down the motion to move forward with the contract. Vice chairman Jonathan Barfield and Commissioner Jason Thompson voted for the contract including prevention of significant air quality deterioration (PSD avoidance).
Davis said his main concern was what would happen if additional funds had to be taken out to pay for facility operations at an estimated annual amount of about $14.8 million. Beth Schrader, strategy and policy manager, said the money would first come from the environmental fund and then any additional money would come from the general fund, or taxpayer dollars.
“Commissioners will need to get with staff and see where we will go from here,” Davis said immediately following the decision.
The proposed contract included the complete retrofit of the facility and also the ongoing maintenance of the facility.
The phase 1 costs totaled $32,622,460, including
$27.5 million in capital expenditures and $5.1 million in management fees. Phase 2 costs totaled $12.5 million plus an additional $25 per ton if more than 150,000 tons.
The breakdown of the estimated $90 per ton tip fee works out to be an additional $2.09 for residents and $15.11 for small businesses per month. PSD avoidance would bring the total up to $91.65 per ton, or $2.20 for residents and $15.92 for small businesses per month.
The decision by the board did not reflect the voices of those who came out to speak as part of the allotted 30-minute public hearing. Nine people spoke in favor of the contract and two spoke against.
While the decision for what to do with solid waste is now on hold for the county, commissioners unanimously voted to move forward with renovations to the former county administration building, located at 230 Chestnut St., not to exceed $10 million. The renovations are projected to cost $8.96 million in construction costs and $880,000 in other costs, such as furniture and fixtures.
In a brief presentation before commissioners took a break for lunch, Carey Ricks, public affairs manager, presented a list of eight legislative issue recommendations for the board to consider. The goals were chosen based on local impact, including establishing a study commission to investigate well regulation concerning the three local beaches and supporting the sea-level rise bill (HB819), an issue brought to the county by local Realtors. The list was concentrated down from a previous list of 21 goals.
The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners steering committees will review the eight goals in the coming month.
County manager Chris Coudriet was not present at the meeting.