By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The April monthly meeting of the Tucker County Solid Waste Authority was held again via teleconference to accommodate the stay at home order set forth as a result of COVID-19. All members were present on the line as Executive Director of the Solid Waste Management Board and Acting Chair of the SWA called the meeting to order. The meeting minutes from March 27 were approved before Office Manager Carol Helmick took over on board reports.
“Our tonnage was up this month from last month by 1,104.27 ton,” Helmick began, however this is still down 454 ton from March 2019. She continued, “On the leachate, were down 59,868 gallon that was hauled out and treated.” Of that liquid, 33 loads were hauled to Moorefield, W.Va. and 107 to Westernport Md. for a total cost of $21,005.80 for the month of March.
Moving into accounts receivable, Helmick reported, “As of today, we’ve collected about half of the accounts receivable,” with approximately 31 accounts outstanding. In accounts payable, she stated, “We haven’t been able to pay very many of them up until today, we did get some money in today and we was able to pay some others out, so hopefully we’ll be able to catch up on things by the end of the month,” said Helmick. Holstine also announced to Accountant and Auditor Ray Keller that he had received a call from Cleveland Brothers who were concerned they had not received any payments since the beginning of March. “So keep that in mind when you’re deciding what to pay and how and who,” requested Holstine.
The income statements were provided for the board, with Holstine stating, “The good news is we netted $36,000.” Board member Dennis Filler asked where the additional tonnage was derived from with Helmick responding the landfill has experienced a surge in cash paying customers this past month. Balance sheets were then reviewed with no questions followed by the deposits and billing report. “We had a decrease in our checking account of $65,055.14 from last month,” Helmick began with the top ten customers remaining relevant. The reason for the decrease is due to catching up on bills in attempt to return to current on all accounts. The check register as well as a copy of the Fifth Third Bank statement relating to the P-Cards concluded the board reports by Helmick with Filler asking for a clarification on a credit. Helmick explained a $2,000 refund was to be administered to the landfill for a core charge, though due to an error on the selling side, the entire cost of $8,050 was refunded. Once the error was detected, it was adjusted accordingly on the statement.
Holstine took over with the director’s report beginning with a public complaint relating to the odor. “We took in some waste from M and M Trucking that we were explained it was going to be one thing and it turned out to be another, so that’s why Ray (Keller) has stopped them from bringing any more of that waste into the facility,” he stated. This is believed to be what triggered the initial odor complaint. “We were correcting some waste placement that was done by a prior director and in order for us to try to get that top and start getting it into a shape that we can start separating storm water from leachate, we needed to take a ridge basically out of the top of that facility and move the waste,” he explained. “Any time you do that of course, you release a lot of foul odor and then we have been working last week trying to do some stuff on Saturday to get all of that waste that we moved properly covered and of course that will help with the order,” Holstine added.
When visiting the facility, pipes projecting out of the ground are visible that are used to release trapped methane gases, “So there is always going to be some methane gas odor in or around the facility,” Holstine confirmed. Once the structure of the facility is reconvened properly, it should be a seldom occurrence for individuals located in Davis to experience the gases being released from the vent. “But, as you all know, we’re not anywhere near where we need to be on an environmental and construction standpoint,” he admitted. “So as we do things to correct past errors, and I had explained this to the Mayor of Davis before, as we do those things, we can’t control that odor. We can do the best we can but when you open that garbage up to drain it or to move it, it is going to smell,” he said. The only remedy is to work quickly to recover the waste to assist with the odor. Holstine apologizes to those experiencing the odor from the landfill, but stated, “Until we get this new cell constructed and get this top drained, we’re going to be poking and prodding in through that old stuff periodically from now probably until the end of this calendar year.” Though this won’t be an everyday occurrence, he is sure there will be days the odor will not be pleasant, especially with low atmospheric conditions and high humidity adding to the issue. “We’re fixing some very bad issues up here and there’s going to be times it stinks,” Holstine said. “We are sensitive to it, we understand that they do not want to smell that odor, but at the same time we do have to work in it and we’ve got to fix what’s wrong and there’s only one way to do it and that’s to uncover it and when you do, it’s pretty bad.” Attempts will be made to pick the best time to open the cells to try and minimize the odor to the best of their ability.
Board member Diane Hinkle asked about the issue of blowing trash as a result of uncovered trash that was being relocated. Holstine stated he had just arrived at the facility and the employees should be very close to recovering. He realizes there is still trash that has blown that needs picked up, the goal being to gain assistance from the correctional facility. This task could take a few weeks to complete but will be addressed appropriately. Board member Jim Alford asked about the welfare of the employees being exposed to the methane gases and odors, which he was assured they were doing fine and having no issues.
Moving on with his report, Holstine was happy to announce that on April 15 the Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order to release the full amount of what is in the construction escrow account at Miners and Merchants Bank. He and Helmick are going to the bank to collect those funds to put into an additional account to keep separate from the general operating expenses account. Holstine continued, saying, “We’ve also amended our rate case to change the terms on the payback on the closure escrow monies that we’re asking for there.” What has already been agreed upon to give the landfill access to is approximately $176,000, but the other escrow account requested access to contains around $2.2 million. This large sum will be treated as a loan to the authority that Holstine has requested to lengthen the payback term from 10 to 15 years as well as to amend the rate case to grant temporary refrain from having to fund the construction escrow account, which is $2.60 per ton, for six months. “Now the reason we’re doing that is to free up some operating funds due to the fact that our tonnage overall is down,” stated Holstine. The original rate case estimate was 67,000 tons per year, which was considered a conservative rate at the time of determination, “Unfortunately we’re tracking for about 64,000 tons and maybe some change for this current year,” said Holstine. Due to this trend, a petition has been submitted to the PSC to amend the rate case to reflect those numbers. In addition, Holstine had to reach out to the DEP for their cooperation in accessing the closure/post closure account funds, which has been granted. “I’m thinking the PSC is going to make a ruling on that rate case fairly soon, I did get word that our case is in front of the commissioners themselves,” he explained.
With no questions coming from the board, new business commenced with a request for a motion to open a new account at Grant County Bank for the construction escrow funds. A motion was made by Alford and a second by board member Chris Lowther with all in favor.
An updated employee handbook has also been or is in the process of being provided to the board members for their evaluation to discuss at upcoming meetings. “We had a lot of issues with your previous employee handbook, and we’ve taken our swipe at it with Carol (Helmick) and my staff at the board, so now we’ve drafted it to you all for your input and comment,” said Holstine. “So this is a total revision then,” asked Filler. Holstine confirmed this is, in fact, a total revision of the handbook. Brief discussion commenced relating to the current status of positions within the landfill given the minimal staff and how the facility hopes to proceed.
Unfinished business resulted in Holstine announcing that Miners and Merchant’s Bank has changed council and has requested a 60 day extension. “Other than that there really hasn’t been any activity other than we did get the order to access the construction escrow,” he said. Clarifications were requested and submitted on behalf of the SWA.
Commission President Lowell Moore called in for the meeting and thanked Holstine and the board for their hard work on getting the landfill back to where it needs to be. “I think you’re going the right direction and going to take care of this in a timely manner and I think the county needs to support you,” said Moore.
This concluded the monthly meeting for the SWA with the next meeting being scheduled for Tuesday, May 19 at 3 p.m. This meeting may be subject to teleconference pending the lift of the stay at home order.