New members of the Greensboro City Council wrangled with the slippery numbers attached to the cost of solid waste disposal during a briefing on Monday, the day before they were sworn in. Reelected District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small, retiring District 2 Councilwoman Goldie Wells, and Bob Mays, a former councilman and businessman whose company is angling for a contract to handle the city’s solid waste, also attended.
District 2 Councilman Jim Kee, whose district is home to the White Street Landfill, asked Environmental Services Director Jeryl Covington, how much saving the city would realize, prefacing his question by saying he was only asking a question he thought his fellow council members were thinking to themselves.
Covington discussed a figure of $15 million per year but expressed doubt about its veracity. Overall, the discussion appeared to provide talking points to the various sides rather than definitive answers.
Assistant City Manager Andy Scott reiterated the question: “What do you think, given the tonnage that you have today and the operating costs that the differential would be if you were to dispose in the landfill versus disposing of it at the transfer station?” he asked. The city also pays Republican Waste to haul its municipal solid waste to a landfill in Montgomery County.
About $2 million per year was Covington’s answer.
Covington also noted that Republic Waste has merged with Allied Waste.
“Those two large companies have gotten married,” Covington said. “We were hoping that they would stay divorced. The reason being is when we went for bid on where our waste would go, we had two landfill disposal options, one being in Charlotte and one being located in Montgomery County. Those two landfills are now owned by one company.”
At-large Councilman Danny Thompson queried Covington: “Based on the fact that there’s less competition now, can’t Republic say, ‘Ah, we’re going to up the rate?’” Covington said she couldn’t say one way or the other.
“The volume that Republic was getting at the Montgomery facility is down,” she said. “So we’re more important to them…. There is still a lot of competition, so I can’t tell you exactly if the number’s going to go up significantly or it’s going to go down.”
Covington noted that the city’s solid waste tonnage is down because retailers are buying less inventory and less packaging is getting thrown away as a result of the economic downturn. Greensboro failed to meet a waste reduction target of 40 percent per person during the 1990s, and went the economy heats up again the amount of waste the city produces could significantly increase.
“When I come to District 2, I tell them that I can only share with them hard numbers — cost,” Covington said. “In future costs. We’re not growing any new landfill space in North Carolina, so this is an asset, whether you choose to do it today or later. Pretty soon landfill capacity in North Carolina will be problematic. The Piedmont area has been identified by my regulators as being an area of concern. We are isolated. High Point has a landfill that they only allow their waste to come into. Greensboro, when we operated the White Street Landfill, we only accepted waste from Guilford County. But we are growing, and that’s what the difficulty is. Now, how much waste are you going to throw away next year, and how much is this community? I’ve already told you: we already top the heap with the ton per person, and if we keep growing and we don’t do any better on our waste reduction, it will be problematic. After awhile, it’s either you pay or you do this development.” The meeting had a light moment when Covington and Bellamy-Small sparred over school pride.
Covington passed around a bottle of leachate — liquid that drains from a landfill — to the incoming council members and cracked that she had to tell a group of UNC-Chapel Hill students it was not for consumption.
“Alright,” Bellamy-Small said from the sidelines. “You got a flat tire.”
“I’m a State grad, and we won this weekend,” Covington snipped.
Later, Covington remarked that she was civil, referring to her professional training.
“And I’m not,” Bellamy- Small retorted.
“Score one for Carolina,” Covington riposted.
Greensboro hires new parks and rec director
The city of Greensboro has hired a new parks and recreation director. Gregory Jackson will begin his new job at an annual base salary of $113,500, the city announced last month. Jackson is leaving the Mecklenburg Parks & Recreation Department, where he directs park operations and athletic services.
Human Relations Director Anthony Wade has headed the parks and recreation department since former director Bonnie Kuester retired in January 2009.
Greensboro Mayor Bill Knight and District 2 Councilman Jim Kee (foreground) discussed solid waste at a briefing for new council members on Nov. 30. (photo by Jordan Green)