Loudon County panel mulls landfill contract extension

LOUDON — The Loudon County Solid Waste Disposal Commission this week got its first look at a proposed 15-year extension to the existing contract to manage the Matlock Bend Landfill.
For almost two years the commission has been working with Santek Environmental Services to modify the contract — signed in 2007 — so that enough money is available to close and monitor the landfill.
The proposal is still a work in progress, according to Kevin Stevens, attorney for the waste commission. “We as a board have to get comfortable with the concepts before we get into the details,” he said Tuesday.
The current contract with Santek ends in 2027. The extension would run until 2042. The landfill might continue to operate for several years after the contract ends.
Under the terms of the latest proposal, Santek would begin accruing $1.62 per ton for the waste commission that would be dedicated to the landfill’s closure/post-closure account, said Cheryl Dunson, marketing manager for Cleveland, Tenn.-based Santek. “In 15 years we’ll have it totally funded,” she said.
New estimates by Santek peg closure and post-closure costs at about $9.3 million in 2015 dollars. The commission has already accrued a little more than $2 million in the fund. Based on various factors the total amount needed may continue to rise. “We’ll look at it every year,” Dunson said.
An important benefit of the proposal is the cap on landfill elevation. Officials have been concerned about the height of the landfill and possible negative reaction from neighbors such as the Tennessee National golf community. At one time Santek had suggested adding another 50 feet of elevation.
The new proposal caps the height of the landfill at about 1,080 feet, less than 10 feet higher than the present elevation. Santek asked for the commission approval to submit the lower top height to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The proposal also asks that Santek be able to use commission-owned property adjacent to the landfill for soil that will be needed to top off the landfill.
The agreement with Loudon County would be modeled on a contract with Gordon County, Ga., landfill management, she said.
“We recommend this language because it keeps the Commission in complete control of its funds and it ensures the account will be revised annually to reflect the actual volume of airspace consumed by Santek,” Dunson said.
Stevens said he does not anticipate any conflicts between the contract and the competitive bidding requirements prescribed by state law.
The commission’s attorney, who “diligently researched Tennessee law to determine what, if any, procurement requirements would apply to a potential extension of Santek’s contract term,” cited a recent opinion from the Tennessee Court of Appeals on a Memphis case that dealt with a similar situation.
“The Court of Appeals held specifically that the municipality’s contract extension was not subject to the competitive bidding process because the municipality was not required to expend any money for the operation of the recycling center,” Stevens said.