1/3/20: JAN. 7 MEETING: TOWN COUNCIL TO TAKE UP PROBLEMATIC RECYCLING CONTRACT, MAKE PLANNING BOARD, CIIP COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS; Fire Chief Limbacher to Update Fire Station Construction

NewyearNewyear

The Town Council will continue discussing Bay Disposal’s request for a fee increase for its curbside recycling and make important appointments to the Planning Board and the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning (CIIP) Committee at its Jan. 7 meeting, according to the agenda released by the Town earlier this week.

SSVFD Fire Chief Ed Limbacher is also scheduled to give an update on the construction of the new fire station, which was originally targeted for completion in January 2020.

Next Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Kern Pitts Center. There will be two opportunities for public comment.

Followup on a possible town beach-nourishment project will occur at the Council’s mid-monthly workshop session, which is set for 9 a.m. Jan. 21, also in the Pitts Center.

The selection of a consultant to manage the search for a new town manager has been delayed until Jan. 21. The Town’s negotiations with Bay Disposal (see below) readily illustrate the need for an astute critical thinker and problem solver in the job.

The “new” Town Council decided at its inaugural Dec. 3 meeting to reinstate third-Tuesday-of-the-month workshop sessions, which a previous Council had suspended.

The suspension led to a stockpiling of business on first-Tuesday regular-meeting agendas and considerably longer night meetings.

You may access the Jan. 7 meeting agenda here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2020-01-07.pdf

The meeting packet is accessible at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2020-01-07.pdf

RECYCLING CONTRACT

According to the meeting packet, Bay Disposal has provided the recycling volume data that the Town Council requested at its Dec. 3 meeting in order to assess the curbside collector’s request for a monthly rate increase of $1.98 per home. The Town is currently paying a monthly fee of $5.42 per home for 2,394 homes.

A timeline provided by Joshua Smaltz, Bay Disposal’s Outer Banks Site Manager, shows that since the Council meeting Mr. Smaltz and the Town have continued their discussions and widened their focus—addressing for the first time the use of alternate recycling disposal sites.

Mr. Smaltz told the Town Council in December that Bay Disposal’s request for a rate increase is an attempt to offset some of the increased processing costs that the Powell’s Point-based company is absorbing.

When Bay Disposal signed its three-year contract with Southern Shores in June 2018, it was purportedly paying $20 per ton for processing the recyclables it picks up curbside and transports to Virginia for disposal. That rate increased to $65 per ton in November 2018; to $110 per ton last October; and then to $120 per ton on Dec. 1, according to the timeline.

Mr. Smaltz reports that the total number of tons collected in Southern Shores in fiscal year 2018-19 was 559.58.

A week after last month’s Town Council meeting, the Virginia recycling plant used by Bay Disposal informed the company that it would no longer accept its loads because it does not have “an outlet for the material,” the timeline states. Bay Disposal has lost its main disposal site for those 560 tons of recyclables.

As The Beacon detailed in a report 12/7/19, outlets have dried up for U.S. recycling because of contamination in the product. Overseas buyers are either declining to purchase U.S. recyclables or returning them to the States for disposal in landfills.

The suggestion that Southern Shores’ recyclables were ending up in a landfill was raised by Town Councilman Gary McDonald at the 2019 budget workshop last April, but neither the Town Council nor anyone on the Town staff took any investigatory action.

Bay Disposal first approached Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett on Oct. 10 about a meeting to discuss an increase in the monthly per-home service rate that it charges, according to Mr. Smaltz’s timeline.

Mr. Smaltz subsequently met with Town staff on Oct. 23, at which time he asked for a monthly rate increase from $5.42 per home to $7.40 per home.

Notes in the meeting packet indicate that the Town and Bay Disposal are currently evaluating their revised options, in light of the disposal-site issue. There is no indication that the Town has investigated the possibility of refusing Bay’s request for a rate increase and hiring a competitor.

Mr. Smaltz told the Council last month that a rejection of the rate-increase request would force his company to cancel the contract, and, therefore, be in breach.

(See The Beacon’s report 12/7/19 for background on the Town’s recycling contract and on contamination.)

Before its arrangement with Bay Disposal, the Town had a contract with a recycling company out of Hampton Roads, Va.—which is where all recyclables collected in Southern Shores, heretofore, have been transported.

According to former Town Manager Peter Rascoe and Finance Director Bonnie Swain, whom The Beacon interviewed about the fiscal year 2018-19 budget, residents frequently complained about this recycling company. In switching to Bay Disposal, Mr. Rascoe purportedly sought to improve customer service, but he principally touted the company’s lower costs and the savings the Town would reap.

Mr. Rascoe negotiated the contract with Bay Disposal, which took effect in July 2018, and signed it. The Town Council had no involvement.

The Beacon trusts that the Town is keeping property owners’ interests foremost in mind and not just trying to accommodate Bay Disposal, which took a risk when it did not insist upon an escalation clause in the contract.

PLANNING BOARD AND CIIP COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS

The packet for next Tuesday’s meeting contains the same four applications for the Planning Board/Board of Adjustment seat left vacant by now-Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey’s resignation last November that were included in last month’s meeting packet. The applicants are Tony DiBernardo, who currently serves as the Board’s first alternate, and homeowners Lynda Burek, George Berry, and Robert McClendon.

Ms. Morey was serving as chairperson of the Planning Board/Board of Adjustment at the time of her election to the Town Council. She began a new three-year term on the Board in July. Whoever is appointed as her successor will serve out her unexpired term. The Board will have to elect a new chairperson.

(Please see The Beacon’s original report on the applicants 11/29/19.)

If Board First Alternate Mr. DiBernardo, a longtime homeowner who is eminently qualified to serve, is passed over for this appointment, the Town Council would owe homeowners and residents an explanation as to why. Such an action would break with custom and protocol and interfere with the administration of good government, which depends on rules and established procedures, not on the whims of elected officials.

Political bias and/or personal favoritism have no place in the Planning Board appointment process, but the Council’s failure to appoint Mr. DiBernardo last month suggests that they may be at work. The Beacon hopes that is not the case.

The Planning Board/Board of Adjustment represents the present and future interests of the entire town, not the politics or preferences of the Town Council. Any compromise of the integrity and independent-mindedness of the Board also makes challenges to its composition when it sits as the Board of Adjustment all that more likely.

**

There is no indication in the meeting packet who will be appointed to the CIIP Committee, which Councilmen Jim Conners and Matt Neal will co-chair. Mr. Haskett announced at the committee’s Dec. 19 meeting that Mr. Neal would replace Mayor Tom Bennett as a co-chair.

If the Town Council observes the same appointment process as it did when it established the CIIP Committee, each Council member will nominate one committee member, and all five appointees will serve two-year terms. The composition of this group, too, should be above political reproach.

The CIIP Committee will likely meet next in February.

FEMA REIMBURSEMENT: According to a report by Mr. Haskett that is included in the packet, the Town expects to be reimbursed $475,000 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for expenses it incurred during the cleanup after Hurricane Dorian. In the meanwhile, the Town will pay these expenses out of the Undesignated Fund Balance–subject to Town Council approval.

Late-Breaking Notice . . . The Town announced today that the Exploratory Committee for a Potential Branch Library will hold a meeting on Mon., Jan. 6, at 5:30 p.m., in an upstairs room at the Pitts Center. This meeting is open to the public.

Christmas Tree Disposal . . . The Town will pick up Christmas trees left at the roadside according to its sector schedule for limb/branch pickup. Needless to say, all metal and decorations must be removed from trees. Wreaths will not be collected. For your sector schedule, see https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Limb-Branch-Calendar-complete-flyer-2020.pdf

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE. Please resolve to stay informed and engaged in town affairs. The face of Southern Shores’ future is being sketched today.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, Jan. 3, 2020

 

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