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OPINION: Landfill Contract Already Crushing County Road Budget

Mitigating countywide road damage from transporting out-of-county waste to the John Smith Road Landfill is estimated to cost $30 million that's not in the budget.
SJRL Tonnage and Revenue

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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Marty Richman (Marty Richman)

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer.Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects. You can follow Marty Richman on twitter @Marty_Richman. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.


Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

Not only is SBC a continuing receptacle for other counties' overpopulation, but it appears that we are also serving as a cheap place to dump their rubbish. I've heard that some out of town raw sewage collectors even bring their human waste here. It's the perfect tri-fecta  I gotta wonder what they would do without us, and what they will do when our roads become unusable. 

To use the vernacular; frankly, I don't get it.  How could we possibly not have factored in the cost of the wear and tear on the county roads and if we did factor it in,

(1) Why did we take the closing costs and other funds in the enterprise totaling > $5.5 million and divert it?

(2) Given the gross and net revenue from operations, how in the world did they expect to pay for that road repair?

Old Joke:  Man buy melons for $2 each, trucks them to market and sells them for $1 each.  Friend says, you're losing a fortune, what are you going to do about it?  Man says, I'll just get a bigger truck and make it up in volume.

You'll have to take my word for it that I'm not a Johnny-Come-Lately to this issue.  Many a meeting of the BoS I stood up and said that the money removed (>$5.5 million)  belonged to the enterprise and rate-payers and should not have been diverted to other uses.  They just smiled, but it's not funny.

Marty Richman 

Submitted by (Barb Taddeo) on

I live and must drive on John Smith for the most part to get to and from my house. Frankly I am sick and tired of the pot holes, uneven patches, numerous flat tires caused by nails and other trash which have fallen off of trucks on the way to the dump. My SUV has suffered major damage caused by the road, which has cost me hundreds of dollars. In other counties if you suffer damage to your car caused by potholes they will pay for damages. The dump manager thinks it is a joke and will NOT clean up the road. Ask any tire company in town and they will tell how many tires they fix on a daily basis caused by John Smith.
I also worry about my water since I have well water. Many times my water is not clear and has a high metal count, especially in the fall which damages my plants and who knows what it is doing to my animals. Why can't our Board of Supervisors do something instead of sweeping it under the rug as they are doing now. Three of them are now running for office but yet they have NOT handled the John Smith problem. It makes me question if they are qualified to handle their jobs.

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