Talking the truth about trash

By Bonnie Culverhouse

Webster Parish Police Jury President Jim Bonsall wants to ensure local residents understand the truth about trash.

The jury has owned the landfill, which covers around 420 acres – for more than 25 years, and recently they have entertained the idea of selling it.

“There is a 25-year operating contract, starting with USA Waste, then Allied and Republic most recently,” Bonsall said. “There may have been another company in there somewhere.”

Republic bought Allied and with it, the contract, which Bonsall describes as “terrible.”

Since Republic’s contract expires next year, it seemed a good time to consider selling the landfill, as it is costing the jury money. Bonsall said the jury has been negotiating a new contract with Republic for almost three years, and the company has been transparent and working with them has been easy.

“We negotiated and negotiated, but I don’t think they are offering us enough money to renew the contract,” he said. “We are at a standstill.”

The jury receives a royalty of 5 percent of Republic’s gross receipts at the landfill, which includes the Sarepta receiving station, although Bonsall said the people living in that area haul their trash to that location and do not pay a fee. In fact, no residents pay fees at any location – only businesses with a certain amount of tonnage.

“I don’t believe they are offering us enough royalties, or I would be in favor of renewing the contract,” Bonsall said. “That’s the only hang-up I’ve got. If we do work out a contract with them, it will be for a lot shorter period.”

Parish attorney Patrick Jackson suggested the jury check with other operating companies before selling the landfill.

“We went through the process, and we did not get one offer for an operating contract,” Bonsall said. “So, that makes Republic even less anxious to negotiate.”

However, the company is anxious for the jury to make a decision.

Bonsall said if the jury were to go with another company or sell the landfill, it will take Republic a year to close all their open sales and fulfill their permits.

But their attorney warned the jury about making hasty decisions.

When the jury was approached by someone with investors that were possibly interested in purchasing the landfill, they began to look differently at the issue.

“In the past, we actually made a little money – maybe $100,000 a year – off the landfill,” Bonsall said. “The last few years, it’s probably cost us $30-$50,000 a year to operate it. We paid the permits we have to pay by this contract. After Republic bought Allied, they came in and started buying some of the permits that they said Allied should’ve been buying all along.”

Bonsall said after looking at the numbers from the last few years, “with what Republic offered us in a contract, and we look at the tonnage the landfill has received and Republic’s gross receipts, I think we might make $50-$60,000 a year at today’s tonnage.”

Bonsall’s numbers show that even if the jury is making $100,000 a year from the landfill, it will take 100 years to get $10 million, which is the number the jury agreed upon as a minimum bid to sell.

Anything the jury makes on the landfill goes back into maintaining Landfill Road, which they will continue to do whether they own the property or sell it.

There are reasons not to sell it, Bonsall said.

“If we feel like the people of Webster Parish are not going to be served like we think they should be – no matter what is offered – then we would not do this deal,” Bonsall. “If someone offered $10 million for it, and if they were going to operate the landfill in a manner that I think they will, I cannot see why we would not take that money and use it for things we need it for.”

The jury would also be relieved of what Bonsall described as a “tremendous amount of liability.”

Bids on the sale landfill are scheduled to be opened in a public meeting on August 20. There will be a pre-bid conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday, August 4 in the Webster Parish meeting room in the courthouse annex.