Yet Another Round Of Musical Recusal Chairs
September 08, 2011If anybody says they know exactly who is going to vote on the White Street Landfill issue they must have a crystal ball, because it appears to have changed again this week, after it all changed last week.
It looks like Councilmember Nancy Vaughan, who was out and then, last week, back in, is now out again because of a conflict of interest.
Wednesday, Sept. 7, Gate City Waste Services sent a letter to Greensboro City Manager Rashad Young proposing "additional solid waste management services that will enhance our original offering and provide additional revenue and/or cost savings to the City of Greensboro. The addition of services related to, but not specifically requested, in the original RFP is allowed under NC General Statute 143-129.2 Construction, design, and operation of solid waste management … facilities."
The letter is signed by F. Norbert Hector Jr., managing member, Gate City Waste Services.
One of the additional services offered, the one that is going to result in the most uproar, is titled "Option I Landfill Gas Project Development" and states, "Gate City Waste Services believes that there is a significant revenue source existing at the landfill in the unutilized landfill gas from Phase 3 which is currently being flared and the additional gas which is under a limited length contract with Cone Mills."
The proposal states, "Gate City Waste Services will independently finance an engineering feasibility/options study to determine the best use of this resource." It continues, that after the study is complete, a recommendation will be made to the city on how to best use this resource and that Gate City will cover the costs for engineering, design, construction and financing related to the project.
The city currently gives some of the methane produced by the landfill to the International Textile Group, which runs an operation in the old Cone Mills White Oak plant. Some of the gas is also flared or burned off.
Everyone agrees that the methane gas is valuable, and at present the city derives no income from it. Since the city is giving away the gas and the International Textile Group can't use all that is currently being produced, there has been little effort to maximize the amount of gas produced and virtually no effort to sell it.
But if the methane gas is part of the contract, then Councilmember Vaughan has a conflict of interest for which she has been recused in the past. In fact, Vaughan was livid when it was implied at one meeting that she had a choice of whether to be recused or not. She said that she had a direct conflict and had been told that criminal charges could result from her voting on matters concerning the landfill because her husband had a contract with International Textile Group to negotiate the methane gas contract with the city, as well as a contract with Waste Industries, which submitted a proposal to operate the landfill.
However, interim City Attorney Tom Pollard offered an opinion last week that because the current issue before the council was to approve a contract with Gate City Waste Services, and Waste Industries was not involved in that particular vote, that Vaughan could suddenly vote on a landfill issue. As a result, not only had Vaughan planned to vote against the contract with Gate City, but she wrote an editorial column that appeared in the News & Record on Sunday, Sept. 4, about how the landfill should not be reopened.
If Vaughan is allowed to vote, the motion to award the contract to Gate City would fail on a 4-to-4 vote, with Councilmember Zack Matheny recused.
Vaughan has said she would join Councilmembers Robbie Perkins, Dianne Bellamy-Small and Jim Kee in voting against the contract.
Those expected to vote in favor of the contract are Mayor Bill Knight, and Councilmembers Trudy Wade, Mary Rakestraw and Danny Thompson.
It would appear that Vaughan would have a conflict on voting on whether or not to allow the methane gas option to be added to the contract, since it would have a direct financial impact on her. So at this point it appears Vaughan will be recused from voting, which would result in the contract with Gate City passing on a 4-to-3 vote.
Option II of the Gate City Proposal is that the city hire Gate City to operate the transfer station on Burnt Poplar Road for a set fee per ton, rather than mothball the Taj Mahal of transfer stations.
Option III notes that Gate City is an equity partner in a landfill project in Rockingham County and would be able to assist the city with disposal options when that project is permitted by the state.
Option IV is that Gate City would investigate alternative disposal technology. It notes that it is involved in research and development of several technologies that are close to being economical and sustainable. Gate City states that at the appropriate time it would present alternatives to burying garbage in the ground to the City of Greensboro.