This opinion was contributed by Hollister resident, Marty Richman.
With a reduction of the John Smith Road Landfill in-county tipping fees on Tuesday’s agenda, now is a good time to look behind the curtain of the county's landfill deal. There lurks about $30 million in unfunded road replacement and repair costs required to mitigate the countywide road damage caused by transportation of out-of-county waste to the landfill according to a special report commissioned by the Board of Supervisors.
The December 2017 report estimated the long-term road improvement capital costs attributable to the wear from transportation of out-of-county waste as $15.4 million (see slideshow), with the cost of related roadway deterioration between 2014 and 2016 already at $1.2 million. Like all roads, the situation worsens and the price goes up every day nothing is done.
Additionally, the report forecasts significant ongoing maintenance costs of approximately $14.1 million; an average cost of about $470,000 annually over the 30-years. Together it’s $1 million a year in 2017 dollars, nearly $30 million total, an expense that was not forecasted or funded in the landfill contract budget.
Every landfill must have an account to “close” the location and monitor the area for decades. The Board wanted to grab the $4 million to $5 million sitting in the John Smith Road closing fund and off-load future closing costs in exchange for landfill space, so they made a deal with Waste Connections (WC). They would allow WC to bring in a huge amount of out-of-county waste – a total of 700 tons to 800 tons day - at very low rates as well as capture the in-county landfill business if WC would release the $5 million and cover the other 20 percent to 30 percent of closing costs that was not theirs. Neither the closing fund balance nor other funds were put aside for road repair or maintenance.
As stated in the report, there was a dramatic increase in the disposal of out-of-county waste since [the less than 50,000 tons in] 2011, with a surge commencing in 2014. In 2016, out-of-county tonnage exceeded 2011 by more than 460 percent. In 2016, out-of-county waste transports to the Landfill totaled an estimated 269,000 tons” compared to the in-county portion of 75,000 tons (see slideshow graph).
The county's total landfill revenue in 2011 was about $1 million; after the 2016 surge in out-of-county waste, the county total revenue was approximately the same, but all that added tonnage, much transported in waste-hauling transfer trailer trucks weighing 80,000 pounds (40 tons), were causing significant damage to the roads, and “leads to accelerated demand for roadway rehabilitation or reconstruction.”
As it now stands, it would take the county's entire annual in-county and out-of-county landfill revenue stream to merely offset the road impact costs of the out-of-county waste transportation. Even if we did that how would we pay for the lesser, but still significant, transportation impacts of the in-county waste?
Don’t be distracted by the reduction of in-county tipping fees during this election cycle, it won't last; the board needs to fix their $30 million mistake ASAP because the roads are getting worse and the unfunded costs of replacement and maintenance is going up every day.
Note: PDF has been attached below. Information source is State of California Controller website. SBC Refusal Financials
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