By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Due to the restrictions set by Governor Justice to limit social gatherings, the Tucker County Solid Waste Authority met via teleconference. All members were present including Ray Keller, Accountant and Auditor, and Commissioner Lowell Moore. Executive Director of the Solid Waste Management Board and Acting Chair for the Tucker County Landfill Mark Holstine asked for approval of the February 24 meeting minutes. Councilwoman Diane Hinkle requested a change to be made under unfinished business, stating, “On the CD rate, the sentence that reads “as discussed previously, the C and D rate was approved by the previous board but was never approved by the PSC and therefore was not in the tariff, it was actually approved by a previous board, not the previous board, that change went into effect March 12, 2012, and out of respect for some members who served on the previous board and have a bit of heartburn, and I think we need to be careful about how we word that.” Holstine acknowledged the request by Hinkle and asked Office Manager Carol Helmick to make that correction. Counciman Jim Alford also noted that it was listed in the minutes he abstained from the vote relating to omitting the C and D rate; however, he did not vote due to loss of cell service. Noting these two changes, all board members agreed to accept the minutes as corrected.
Board reports began with Helmick bringing attention to the tonnage report. “The tonnage report for February was down 434 tons from January, so if you calculate that up I was a loss of $20,595 for the month,” Helmick began. She did note that March seems to be coming back up which brings hopes for more positive numbers for March. “On the leachate, the gallons went up 307,420 gallons from what we hauled in January,” she continued which equaled a total increase in hauling and treatment. Fortunately, March is looking better for the leachate totals.
Over 56% of receivables have been collected for February, leaving only one account left outstanding, however this is relating to the town of Harman and their most recent flooding event. “Moving on to accounts payable, for the month of February, about 80% of the bills were paid,” Helmick continued, noting two vendors being past due. The income statement was provided to the board for review. Hinkle asked why there was such a difference between gross profit year to date versus this time last year. Keller replied, “We are down year to date 7,962 tons and when we calculate that into lost revenue for us it comes out to $378,219.” Hinkle asked if it was a particular vendor that resulted in a loss of business, with Keller stating that the loss of the sewage sludge from Moorefield, which accounted for a large portion of the loss. Discussion commenced relating deals that were made between the landfills and other entities that need to be addressed as the financial situation continues to be worked on.
Holstine transitioned into the director’s report making the board aware of some issues Tygart Valley Sanitation is having with the landfill. “They (TVS) are not pleased with the condition of the facility” he explained though he understands their dissatisfaction. Because of these issues, TVS is threatening to pull from the Tucker County Landfill and haul into other facilities. “That would be a death nail to the facility,” Holstine confirmed. He has employees working throughout the weekend to try and accommodate these concerns even though the company is in a financial crisis. According to the complaint, the haul roads are the main issue in and out of the landfill. Holstine asked Mr. Hornick to haul a couple trucks in on Monday after the work happens over the weekend to see the improvements. “He’s been a good customer,” Holstine stated, “We just have to keep all the haulers happy,” though weather has played a major issue in this situation.
Work is still continuing to secure funding through approval of the Public Service Commission (PSC). He has contacted them multiple times in the week to try and get an answer regarding their request. “It is getting hard to get all the bills paid,” Holstine stated. “We’ve done just about everything you can do from an expense side to cut everything that we can possibly cut.” He offered some examples relating to cuts made to minimize expenses, including on road fuel costs down 60%, general shop supplies 50%, and leachate management contract hauling, even though a huge expense, is down 87%. “There’s just now enough revenue to keep up with what we’re doing,” though Holstine feels all has been done possible on the expenses.
Holstine spoke briefly on the teleconference meeting relating to the feasibility study on wastewater management. “I thought Lowell did a great job at running that meeting,” he said as he felt it sounded encouraging for most of the meeting. In order for the landfill to survive, he insisted this matter needs to be addressed to bring more sustainable infrastructure to the Cty of Thomas, Town of Davis, as well as the landfill and other amenities in the area. He expressed another concern of the decrease in tonnage due to the COVID-19 which he feels will continue to decrease the amount of trash. Holstine commended the job the employees at the landfill are doing and seem to be taking pride in their job. “We’re not throwing the towel in, we’re going to go as hard as we can go, just right now it’s tough.”
Commissioner Fred Davis was at the landfill prior to the meeting and seen firsthand what the issues were that needed addressed this weekend. He had concern for the forecast and understands the factor it plays in the facility conditions. Holstine explained the goal of the weekend plans, stating, “We can’t lose Tygart Valley,” he said. “We won’t survive long without that tonnage.”
County Planner Dennis Filler asked Holstine, “Our leachate is $600,000 nominally, we can get it down to maybe $400,000, if we had a septic system that could accommodate it, what would our cost be then?” Holstine responded, “It would just be the treatment cost,” he explained as he did the math. “You could essentially cut that cost in half,” Holstine added, though that is producing leachate at the current rate and the goal with the hopeful incoming funds would be to reduce that production, which essentially would reduce the costs even more. “That’s also revenue on that other side,” he added. “Our decrease in cost is their increase in revenue,” Filler stated. Holstine agreed, and added, “That whole thing we discussed on Tuesday night (the sewage meeting), from a long term perspective, is crucial to the long term success of the facility (landfill).” He continued by saying that project is not only essential for the landfill, but the two municipalities and any further economic development within that portion of the county.
Holstine continued informing the board he has a meeting with Grant County Bank next week to discuss the current loan. “The outstanding balance on that loan is right around $2 million,” he explained that there may be some technicalities in the loan documents that need addressed. The equipment on site is on the loans with liens against them that will need to be transferred to new equipment if the landfill is successful in securing the needed funds to obtain the new equipment. Preliminary conversations have taken place which Holstine felt went very well stating “They (Grant Count Bank) have our best interest in mind as well.”
New Business began with the board learning of a grant for $25,000 that would go toward leachate costs. Board member Chris Lowther made a motion to apply for the grant through the Solid Waste Management Board with Filler making a second and all in agreement.
Unfinished business consisted of Holstine making the board aware of the receiving and compliance with the first set of interrogatories relating to the PSC investigation. Two requests have been made to the PSC, one to access the remaining funds in the construction escrow, tied to the investigation, and the other is the $2.2 million in the closure/post closure escrow which is tied to the rate case. Holstine has preliminarily discovered the funds in the construction escrow should be ordered to be release within the next couple weeks. “Now that’s not the big money but that will go a long way helping us address some of these issues we have with day to day conditions,” he explained. This money would serve as reimbursements for some of the work that has been done and paid for out of general funds. Holstine has been asked to move forward with writing a request letter for the $2.2 million, which gave him a positive outlook for the rate case and accessibility. “If that occurs, we will be able to go to bid immediately on construction of the next cell, which is desperately needed, and will let us kind of abandon that top once it’s completed.” Issues on top can then be addressed in regards to leachate generation which will assist in the financial situation.
The engagement letter for the fiscal year 2019 audit has been signed which will help get the landfill caught up. Holstine expects it to be a thorough audit, though he welcomes the opportunity of another professional’s input on the financials that can assist the landfill to get back on track. Keller and Helmick have already begun sending information via electronic documents so the audit can begin due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Public comments followed with Commissioner Moore thanking Holstine for his work on the Tucker County Landfill and his contribution to the sewage meeting. Hinkle also wished to express her gratitude to the employees of the landfill.
The next meeting for the Tucker County Solid Waste Authority will be Monday, April 20 at 3 p.m. It is unknown at this time if it will be at the landfill office or via teleconference.