Data shows county can save on solid waste costs

Gary B. Gray • Dec 3, 2012 at 10:12 PM

Monday’s Washington County Solid Waste Committee meeting Monday produced an unusually crowded assembly of city and county officials, as well as representatives from solid waste companies Advanced Disposal Services, BFI and Waste Management, who gathered for an exercise in mathematics.

The preliminary calculations do show that the county could potentially save from $200,000 to $300,000 on its solid waste disposal costs by employing a mix of pricing options.

On average, the county spends about $627,000 a year to haul waste from its five convenience centers to Johnson City-owned Iris Glen Landfill. This was calculated using averages over the past two years and includes number of trips, transportation costs, disposal costs and the tipping fee.

But savings on switching to another landfill, even if the county should choose to continue to haul the waste, would save about $212,000 a year, according to reports from County Mayor Dan Eldridge. When a new county transfer station is added to that mix — one placed in a more centralized location, rather than the proposed $750,000 to build a transfer station on Harmony Road between Jonesborough Springs and Fall Branch — it produces another $75,000 in savings.

“I’m not ready today to make a decision today, but looking at these numbers, we do have a chance to save a lot of money,” Eldridge said. “The $75,000 in savings could pay for a new transfer station in 10 years. But this is all very preliminary. But it’s all math. There’s no emotion to this.”

Eldridge and Solid Waste Department Director Charlie Baines have been using spreadsheets to work up some figures, and some of those didn’t go over too well with company representatives, who questioned mileage costs and other numbers.

Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola told committee members that he was all for the county saving money. However, he said his calculations told a different story.

“It appears to us that the difference in going from the convenience centers to Iris Glen and from a transfer station (to Iris Glen) seemed to be more mileage,” he said.

The county’s figures show that transportation both from either transfer station site would save money, with the more centrally located station producing a nearly $20,000 annual savings alone. This is based on about 13,000 tons annually, 22 tons per trip and an average of 594 total trips.

“It is rough at this point, it is preliminary at this point, but it gives us some very, very good options,” said Commissioner and Solid Waste Committee Chairman David Shanks.

The meeting concluded with the general understanding there still was a lot of work to do regarding nailing down all the numbers, and being sure to include potential overhead, labor and additional capital costs, such as a compactor. The committee will meet again on Jan. 7

The county, which is considering all options, including the construction of a new transfer station, received three bids which were roughly half the price now paid to dump waste at the Johnson City-owned Iris Glen Environmental Landfill, which is $42.50 a ton.

Johnson City’s Solid Waste Division picks up residential waste within the Washington County Utility District — which is owned by the city but excludes Jonesborough — at about 6,000 to 8,000 locations and takes that to Iris Glen. The county has five convenience centers, two of which sit on city-owned property. These “bins” are taken to Iris Glen by the county.

City officials have said the county may not be making the wisest decision, that tonnage could be reduced at Iris Glen and the move ultimately would be harmful to the WCUD.

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