BROOKVILLE — The Jefferson County Solid Waste Authority has looked toward the state legislature for solutions to funding issues for the past several years. Now, it appears a different answer may be playing out in Clearfield County.
The authority has been losing funds since an administration fee was removed following a court case. This year, the authority needed more than $20,000 from reserve accounts to balance the operating budget. Each year, the authority asks the state to renew the administration fee, but no action has been taken.
The loss of the administration fee has placed many county authorities in similar funding quagmires. Clearfield County’s authority is no exception. However, a proposed agreement with Veolia Environmental Services would throw the Clearfield County Solid Waste Authority a lifeline, and Jefferson County Recycling Coordinator Donna Cooper and authority Chairman David Gordon hope a similar bone will be tossed Jefferson County’s way.
According to Cooper, Veolia has tentatively agreed to pay the Clearfield County Solid Waste Authority $142,000 per year for the next 10 years.
“For that, the Clearfield County authority will flow all waste through Veolia,” Cooper said.
She said the Clearfield authority is in the process of constructing a solid waste management plan, which must be submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection every 10 years. Jefferson County must submit a new plan in three years.
While constructing the plan, Clearfield County’s recycling coordinator contacted waste haulers to see if a cooperative could be established.
“Veolia basically said, ‘What do you need to stay running?’” Cooper said.
Cooper said Jefferson County will, in all likelihood, have to wait until it constructs a new management plan to reach a similar agreement with Veolia, but asked the authority board members if they would like to meet with Veolia and discuss the options.
“A similar deal may be possible,” she said. “I’m skeptical that they would commit to anything without a formal proposal, but we could at least meet with them.”
Gordon said he still “questions whether this thing will fly,” saying he was not entirely of the opinion that it was a legal option.
“I thought we could flow to a public facility, like a county hauler, but not to a private entity,” Cooper said.
Gordon reviewed court records to see if such an agreement was possible.
“I don’t feel any more comfortable with this than I did in the first place,” he said. “Really, I’m glad that they (Clearfield County) are three years ahead of us, because we can see what happens.”
The court records stem from a ruling that was in reference to county authorities that ship waste to neighboring states. Cooper said those documents say, in essence, that flowing waste through a private entity is legal “if the benefits to the authority outweigh (the loss to the public facility). That is really simplifying it,” she said.
Gordon said Veolia is willing to agree to such a payout because it ensures ample waste for its haulers and its landfill facilities.
“Basically, their tonnage is going down for other sources,” he said. “So I’m sure they want to lock in whatever they can.”
All authority members present were in favor of meeting with Veolia, the only question was whether it would be better to meet as a board or as members of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee.
Authority Treasurer James Sleigh suggested meeting as the advisory committee, saying, “If the committee goes, it is just to collect information. That could help us if we want to back out of this for any reason.”