Alamance County’s commissioners have rejected a franchise agreement with an out-of-town firm that they had previously given a tentative nod to take over a locally-owned landfill for construction and demolition debris in the southwestern part of the county.
The commissioners chose not to accept the specifics of the proposed deal on Monday – some six weeks after they voted, in principle, to let Charlotte-based Meridian Waste inherit an existing franchise that Coble Sandrock has long held for a C&D landfill at 5833 Foster Store Road in Liberty.
Following their unanimous acceptance of the franchise’s transfer on January 17, the commissioners instructed county staff members to hammer out the details of a new agreement with Meridian. On Monday, Alamance County’s manager Heidi York returned to the commissioners with the results of these staff-level negotiations.
Under the staff’s proposed agreement, the company would’ve had permission to accept up to 750 tons of debris a day – as opposed to Coble’s current maximum daily load of 600 tons. Meridian would’ve also have been able to expand the facility’s service area from a radius of 25 miles to 75 miles, without extending beyond the borders of North Carolina. The service area could’ve been further adjusted to include the entirety of any county that falls only partially inside this 75-mile zone.
In return for these allowances, Meridian had pledged to pay Alamance County a “host fee” of $1 a ton for the waste it takes in – with a minimum annual payment of $50,000 during the first full year of operation. This sum would’ve been prorated for the current calendar and increased to $75,000 and $100,000 for years two and three of Meridian’s franchise.
The company had further promised to clean up roadside litter within a half mile of the site’s entrance, beautify the entrance itself, discount its “tipping fees” by 10 percent for individual Alamance County residents, and hold at least two educational events for the community each year.
“The asset that is there is an asset that is being underutilized, and all we’re asking for is to utilize it, to expand it, and to help generate new revenue for the county. We want to be very fair and transparent to you, and we want the county to be a partner with us.”
– Mary O’Brien, Meridian Waste
Mary O’Brien, an executive with Meridian who was on hand for Monday’s discussion, assured the commissioners that this agreement would ultimately be a win-win for her company as well as for Alamance County.
“The asset that is there is an asset that is being underutilized, and all we’re asking for is to utilize it, to expand it, and to help generate new revenue for the county,” she insisted. “We want to be very fair and transparent to you, and we want the county to be a partner with us.”
In response to concerns from the public about the site’s business hours, O’Brien also stipulated that the landfill would be closed altogether on Sundays, while activity on Saturday would be limited to the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 12:00 noon.
The company’s assurances were ultimately enough to sway John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, who openly declared his support of this deal as it was presented.
“I don’t see any reason not to grant this continuation of the franchise,” he said. “I see a number of positives, and the income would be much greater to the county.”
But Meridian’s proposed franchise didn’t go over nearly as well with commissioner Bill Lashley, who challenged the board’s chairman on some of the finer points of the proposal.
Lashley took issue, for instance, with the proposed expansion of the landfill’s service area as well as the 65 truckloads a day that the company expects to take in when it’s humming on all cylinders, He also noted that, in real world terms, Meridian’s proposed maximum daily allowance is more than a mere 25 percent increase in the current figure since Kent Coble, the landfill’s present proprietor, uses less than 10 percent of his allotted 600 tons a day.
“It’s a 1,500 percent increase [from the actual usage]. You have to be thinking about it illogically if you think the amount of traffic is not going to change.”
– County commissioner Bill Lashley
“It’s a 1,500 percent increase [from the actual usage],” the commissioner protested. “You have to be thinking about it illogically if you think the amount of traffic is not going to change.”
In response to Lashley’s objections, O’Brien emphasized that her company’s operations will ultimately be subject to state regulations that far exceed even the strictest provisions that the county is allowed to impose on a landfill.
“We cannot be in business by violating that [state] permit,” she added. “By breaking the rules is not how we grow as a successful company.”
Meanwhile, Paisley warned that, if turned down by the county, Meridian could obtain the changes it wants from the state.
“If we turn them down, they can go to the state and likely get this franchise extended anyway. So, we can either make the best out of it that we can, or we turn it over to the state and Katie bar the door.”
– County commissioner chairman John Paisley, Jr.
“If we turn them down, they can go to the state and likely get this franchise extended anyway,” he observed. “So, we can either make the best out of it that we can, or we turn it over to the state and Katie bar the door.”
Alamance County’s attorney Rik Stevens went on to confirm the essence of Paisley’s legal analysis.
In the end, Paisley made a motion to accept the proposed franchise agreement, which failed to garner a second from Lashley or from fellow commissioners Pam Thompson and Craig Turner.
Although the board’s vice chairman, Steve Carter, had made remarks favorable to Meridian’s franchise, he was unable to throw his support behind Paisley’s motion, or vote on the motion, since he took part in Monday’s meeting remotely. Paisley’s motion consequently died for lack of a second.