South County Federation
Meeting at South County Secondary School
Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 @ 7:30 p.m.
**** MINUTES ****
BOARD REPORTS (10 Minutes)
Called to order at 7:37PM
President’s Report, Peter Dickinson. Introduced executive committee officers, welcomed attendees and noted concurrent community meetings at Mason Neck.
Gene spoke about federation membership activities and placed applications out for any to take.
At meeting end, President Dickinson noted the ongoing redistricting and possibility of a 10th district.
SUPERVISORS/LEGISLATORS TIME and DISCUSSION
Sharon Bulova, Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
Chair Bulova spoke of upcoming matters the Board will be considering including, from the main part of our meeting tonight, options concerning the end of the term of the county contract with Covanta to operate the waste-to-energy plant at the Lorton landfill.
Hyland moved to negotiate the best deal for the county. Followup motion to have staff prepare what would be needed for purpose should the negotiations be found unsatisfactory. Both motions passed with unanimous support of the board of Supervisors.
Budget: Exec released advertised budget last Tuesday. Any interested in learning/commenting will have numerous opportunities to do so. There are several public meetings including Q&A sessions on the agenda.
Tax Rate: unchanged in advertised budget. The tax rate that will be adopted is the cap. The board may vote to reduce it, but may not exceed it. To keep average tax bills the same in amount, the rate would be $1.065
Chair Bulova covered the budget mark-up schedule.
April 12th at 10 AM is the adoption vote. Two weeks later, the formal budget is adopted.
Usually, the budget is the only item on the agenda, but every 10 years, the county redistricts.
April 12th at 4PM is a hearing on county redistricting.
Primaries could occur as late as August.
Election day is November 8th.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland
Covanta: Hyland received a letter from Federation VP Gene Rainville. He felt it was among the best letters he received regarding the matter. The county is seeking to negotiate a continuation of lease agreement that would be as good as the purchase option. If so, the best decision the board could make for the county would be to sign such a contract.
Assessments up 2.34% countywide, 1.9% in MtVee. Commercial assessments are increasing at a higher rate than residential.
Fort Belvoir items: BRAC, commissary/PX, Route 1 traffic.
Low flying helicopters: Christine Morin attended for Supervisor Hyland. Looking for citizen input similar to what is done in Long Island. Person in the know (Bob Laser) has agreed to come to talk to the federation. We know that it is not Fort Belvoir.
Gunston Hall: there are about 150 people at a public forum which he will be leaving to attend
Cinder Bed Road bus garage for WMATA: Three adjacent neighborhood groups oppose it. They are in the Mount Vernon District. The proposed garage would be in the Lee District. Linwood noted that road access to the proposed location is through Mount Vernon. March 8th decision expected by the board.
Visioning Taskforce process is coming to a close. We now have the challenge of implementing the vision. Commended participants in this endeavor.
The major focus on the citizens at the 2011 town meeting made it the best one yet.
Hyland opened the floor to questions and comments.
Q: Mount Vernon Council presentation by county implied staff will have a “take it or leave it” negotiation position. Concern about good faith negotiation. A: Hyland noted that that is what the board voted for and that there have been negotiations for several years.
James Pattison, Director of Public Works: Negotiations suspended in 2008 due to standstill. In 2009/10 as the county began the appraisal process for purchase, it revealed info that created a window to more negotiation with Covanta. Pattison stated that the negotiations, in his opinion, by Covanta, have been to try to come closer to the benefits the county has predicted will come with purchase. The county will be meeting with Covanta March 8th to present terms to Covanta.
Q: If the negotiations and purchase are similar, what would be the decision? A: Hyland noted that Covanta does not want the county to purchase the plant. He feels that Covanta is better off financially with the county not owning the facility.
Resident: statement about out-of-state waste.
Hyland: the current terms allow Covanta to take out-of-state waste. The terms that are desired are not the same as the status quo. He also noted the land was owned by DC at the time the current terms were negotiated. Covanta will have to decide if it makes sense for them as a business to agree to the new terms desired.
Gene noted that any non-purchase decision include a future purchase option.
Resident commented on a passage in a publication he recently received about the history of Occoquan Regional Park referring to moneys from tipping fees supporting the park. Q: Why not work into the new contract a fee to help the local area most affected by the incinerator facility?
Related issue: less than a week before hearing, staff posted hundreds of pages of info. Comment made that there was not enough lead time for public to review the large block of information before hearing.
The reports were posted because there were requests to have the reports posted. Some of the reports have not even presented to the Board.
Hyland stated that the board does not normally go out to have public hearings about board decisions on contracts. This is unusual. He could not remember the last time the county had done this in his time on the board.
Chair Bulova noted the contract could have been handled as a procurement. If so, there would have been far more undisclosed information.
Inquirers main point was the information needs to be posted in a timely manor.
One of the reports was advice of council. An issue with that report: the person who testified about flow control and ownership impact on that.
President thanked Bulova and Hyland and noted that they are due to appear at another public meeting at Mason Neck. He then noted that representatives of Covanta are also in attendance and invited them to address the audience.
A representative spoke of the background of what Covanta considers a long successful relationship with Fairfax County. He noted that Covanta desires to continue their partnership for another 20 years or more whether or not the County purchases the facility.
If the county has a shortfall of the agreed upon waste amount, Covanta will bring in additional waste to continue efficient operation of the incinerator. Under current terms, they have some allowance to do so. There is an understanding that Covanta will not compete with the county regarding waste.
Pattison spoke about county staff consideration of projections for both reduction and increase in tonnage of burnable trash for the incinerator.
Resident noted that revenue from tipping fees that were used to pay off revenue bonds should benefit the public now rather than later.
County agrees that the relationship with Covanta has been very successful. The county probably could not afford to have done this 20 years ago without structuring it the way they had. Now the county is in a better place to afford the purchase of the facility. The bonds are retired, but payments toward that debt will be replaced in current terms by increased costs as agreed to in the current contract.
Resident opined that the numbers being presented by county are not correct. Noting the statements about the unusual public disclosure. Resident stated that it would be easier to influence or hold accountable Covanta than the county. Linwood noted that you can FOIA the county, but not Covanta.
Recognizing that the principal questioners and commentors had made their points, the federation leadership sought to end debate after one or two more non-County and non-Covanta initiated questions or comments; this is not the proper venue to hash out all details.
Pattison wanted to make clear that the county has and still has a good relationship with Covanta. They have to make the good business decision and the county has to make the best governance decision. He disputed the image in the public eye that they are at odds. He invited the public to ome talk to them and ask them and he wants to share information with the public.
Linwood has noted that he has not heard anything negative about Covanta’s operation of the plant and noted that they offer tours to those interested.
Earl Flanagan asked Pattison about the general operations of the I-66 transfer station and new technology including compacting trash to reduce truckloads and ‘brick’ burnable trash. County owns and operates transfer station and would make decisions implementing new technology.
Comment about owning a possible obsolete trash burning plant in future. Currently there are new plants being built in Europe and six or so US facilities that are expanding current trash burning cpacity.
Covanta has projected that gasification tech would be feasible for a 20 ton per day facility. Current county incinerator is a 3 ton per day facility.
Question about NOX emission reduction and whether testing is occurring at the Lorton incinerator. No, but Covanta is testing at other facilities. In order to begin testing, capital expenditures are necessary. Does not make business sense to lay out the money with negotiations ongoing.
Resident expressed concern county has less incentive than private company to run the plant in the most profitable way. Ownership means that the county would go out to competitive bid. Concern about lowest bidder not being qualified to run the incinerator. There is no legal requirement to go with lowest bid. There is a risk that Covanta would not be chosen to operate the incinerator.
Resident noted that Covanta might choose not to bid if the county owns it.
Recognizing great concern on the issue, President Dickinson gave an opportunity for one last question or comment from each of the principal participants in the discussion
Decision date is April 4th for purchase. If Covanta does not allow extension of purchase option deadline, the board must make a decision on that date.
It’s easier for the county if it does not own it. But, the negotiation is not about making it easy on the county, it is about getting a good deal for the county.
Covanta representative noted motion passed by the board makes it clear that the staff will come up with a list of requirements. Covanta has the option of taking it whole or rejecting it whole. Covanta was somewhat surprised at the approach.
President recognized officials and staff in attendance; Past Federation President Laurie Frost, Planning Commissioner, Earl Flanagan, Steven Jerry of US Representative Gerry Connolly’s staff, and staff members of Supervisor Hyland and Herrity.
STANDING AND SPECIAL COMMITTEE REPORTS
- Next month will have budget information
- Land Use Committee (Linwood Gorham)
- Public Safety
- Electric Sunday March 26th 10-3 at Lorton landfill
Occoquan Regional Park meeting report
- NVRPA webpage has ideas suggested and invites new ideas
- Marty is looking at how Prince William County does removal and fines for nuisance signs
- Local ABC 7 news story tonight about Arlington considering imposing fines
- Laurie Frost suggested administrative fines instead of criminal or civic
Action Center (5 Minutes)
- Next meetings
o April 5th meeting: 7:30PM, South County Secondary School library
o May 3rd meeting: 7:30PM, South County Secondary School library
o June 7th meeting: 7:30PM, South County Secondary School libraryAdjournment at 9:25PM.