BRISTOL, Va. — Bristol, Virginia officials do not expect to receive any state or federal funding assistance to resolve its landfill odor issues, City Manager Randy Eads told the City Council on Tuesday night.
Eads’ comments came during an extensive council discussion about the best uses of its unassigned fund balance. Some council members were supportive of using part of the $6.8 million as a down payment for a proposed new elementary school — a plan first proposed by Councilman Kevin Wingard.
When asked his opinion, Eads cautioned that the city has no idea what it will cost to resolve its landfill woes.
“In this fiscal year alone, we’ve taken $1.5 million from beginning balance to cover issues associated with the landfill. That’s from July 1, so we’re seven months out. If we’ve done that in seven months, what’s to say 14 months from July 1 of last year we’re not at $3 million, or 21 months we’re not at $4.5 million? That $6.8 million you have right now can go very, very quickly,” Eads said.
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“We need to be very careful with the cash that we have due to the landfill. Based on conversations I’ve had, having federal or state monetary assistance for this landfill is probably unlikely,” Eads said. “I’m not saying it’s not going to happen, but, as of right now, we don’t know. To assume that will happen is a grave error in judgment.”
Eads also cautioned that it’s too early to start counting on revenues from the casino since it hasn’t yet opened, and he reminded the council there would be additional costs to transition from the city jail to the regional jail — possibly as much as $2.5 million in this fiscal year.
Wingard said he disagreed with Eads because the city manager didn’t account for any growth in the fund.
The council reached no consensus on the fund and is awaiting the outcome of today’s Industrial Development Authority board meeting to see if the IDA will agree to be the funding conduit for the school project.
Earlier in the meeting, Eads discussed what is occurring at the landfill. His comments came partially in response to some residents from both sides of town who urged the council to take whatever steps necessary to address the pungent odors.
“We’re not letting up,” Eads told those in attendance. “My goal is to correct this problem as fast as we can, and it’s council’s goal as well. We all recognize this has not gone as quickly as any of us would like for it to go.”
Looking forward, the city must deal both with the odors and stopping the emission of benzene into the city’s wastewater treatment system. Eads said those plans are being developed.
“Our engineers are designing a 24-month project and cost estimate plan that we can start to budget for the next fiscal year, of how to address the issues associated with the landfill that’s impacting our community. We anticipate having that finalized in the next couple of weeks so we can start that budget process for the new fiscal year beginning on July 1,” Eads said.
He added that landfill consultant Craig Benson visited the facility and is expected to report his findings to the council at its Feb. 8 meeting via a Zoom call.
Last fall, the city contracted to have 21 new gas wells drilled at the landfill that are now connected to the gas collection system. Eads said plans for additional wells are being developed.
“We are in the process of a gas well expansion design. I know some people may not want to hear that, but all the experts have advised us we may need to potentially add more gas wells,” Eads said. “We are in the process of designing that system.”
The new wells are generating between 700 and 800 cubic feet of gas per minute and operating at between 30% and 50%, Eads said.
In addition to adjusting the gas wells, other work is also occurring at the landfill now, he said.
“Previously, council approved funds for scoping of the north end cleanout. They have scoped the north end cleanout, and, for the most part, it looked in decent shape,” the city manager said. “They were going to scope the south end cleanout tomorrow, but, due to temperature, they are going to postpone that for a few days until the temperature warms up.
“The remediation of chimneys, where we have gas escaping, is partly complete at this point. We hope to have it complete by the end of the week,” Eads said of openings in the landfill surface.
In other matters, the council held first reading on a request to vacate a portion of right-of-way at Mt. Vernon Drive near Lee Highway. The applicant is Steve Hutchens of Crown Legacy Investments of Georgia, whose company is listed as the largest Waffle House franchisee in the nation.
In other matters, the council unanimously approved a rezoning request for a 12.5-acre parcel off Island Road from R-2 residential to R-3 higher density residential. The developer plans to construct a large residential complex in both Tennessee and Virginia. It would include one-, two- and three-bedroom units with about 80 to 100 units on the Virginia side, along with a clubhouse and office. The remaining units would be constructed in Tennessee. City Planner Jay Detrick said the developer is engaged in a similar process with Bristol, Tennessee.
The council discussed but took no action on a proposal to re-fund $68.4 million of general obligation bond debt. The action would allow the city to take advantage of a lower 2.8% interest rate, which would save about $3.85 million. That would generate about $193,000 annually that would go directly to the city’s general fund, according to David Rose of Davenport & Co., the city’s financial advisers.
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