The Board of County Commissioners decided earlier this year to get out of the landfill business.
Taxpayers are projected to be the winners.
Commissioners chose to close the county’s last landfill, Five Points just north of Port St. Joe, after years of bleeding red ink on the bottom line.
Even after a series of steps to even the cost/expense balance sheet in recent years, the county was still losing hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, money coming directly from property owners.
As part of an attempt to move to mandatory garbage and bring solid waste costs down, commissioners decided to stanch the bleeding by closing the landfill Dec. 31.
“We decided to get out of the landfill business,” said County Commissioner Ward McDaniel, adding that the county will continue to absorb the cost of environmental monitoring at three landfill sites, including Buckhorn and Five Points.
As part of bidding out for solid waste haulers the county included operating a transfer station at Five Points.
Waste Pro, which took over the county contract this month, has pledged to build a transfer station at Five Points and pave the entrance road.
The company will also establish a recycling station prior to 2015.
Five Points was nearing its shelf life as it was. The county, with an investment of dollars and materials, could have extended its life for another 5-7 years, but the economics did not work.
After losing as much as $800,000-$900,000 a year the cost of the landfill had been reduced, in part through a near-doubling of tipping fees, but it remained a black hole for public dollars.
Joe Danford, director of Public Works, said at $60 per ton the county must take in 11,000 “paid-for tons” each year to break even. This year Five Point is on track to take in less than a third of that.
The landfill is losing roughly $450,000 a year, Danford said.
“That is the driving force behind this,” Danford said. “Small landfills don’t make money. From a fiscal standpoint we don’t have much choice.”
Getting out of the landfill business and rebidding the solid waste services allowed commissioners to eliminate one significant mover in the budget.
“We will have less tonnage we have to deal with and we will get fixed costs for each customer,” McDaniel said.
While the move will have an impact for the city of Port St. Joe, it could be money savings.
The city has seen tipping fees, largely due to yard debris pickup, skyrocket the past two years as county charges increased. The city budgeted $73,762 for tipping fees during the current fiscal year – more than double two years ago – and will likely pass that mark, said city manager Jim Anderson.
The city also entered into a similar bid process simultaneous to the county as the governing bodies eyed county-wide mandatory garbage pickup.
The county was forced to back off that goal due to the lack of data foundation for what rates could and would be charged and awarded its bid to Waste Pro, which is the city’s hauler through the expiration of its contract in October.
The city has competing bids from Waste Pro and Waste Management, the county’s former hauler, for costs to operate the city’s landfill and assess tipping fees that Anderson said would mean a reduction of costs to the city and its citizens.