In the News – Cumberland County Improvement Authority

CCIA trashes big landfill expansion
Saturday, March 13, 2010
By Matt Dunn
The News of Cumberland County

MILLVILLE – Nothing stands in the way of the Cumberland County Improvement Authority moving forward with a scaled-down version of what originally was a costly landfill expansion project, according to CCIA officials.

Doug Long, CCIA counsel, said Friday that the CCIA board of directors voted Feb. 2 to reject all bids for a proposed $15 million addition to the Cumberland County Solid Waste Complex, after previously awarding a contract for the project last November to R.E. Pierson Construction Co., Inc.

The decision to reject all bids came after concern about the CCIA’s financial state was voiced earlier this year by CCIA management consultant Don Rainear.

The landfill expansion was expected to double the CCIA’s debt within the next four years.

At the same time, the CCIA expects to experience a sharp drop in revenue as a result of a recent decision by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority to no longer send trash to Cumberland County’s landfill.

Although there is pending litigation involving Pierson and CETCO Contracting Services – the second lowest bidder on the landfill expansion – Long said that litigation is separate from the fact that the CCIA has rejected all bids.

CETCO filed a complaint in Superior Court in January claiming that Pierson should be disqualified from working on the landfill expansion because one of the company’s subcontractors allegedly pleaded guilty to tax evasion in the late 1990s, and hid this fact from the CCIA.

Pierson filed a motion in response, claiming that if they are disqualified, the CCIA has breached its contract with them.

Their position is that the CCIA was aware of the subcontractor’s felony conviction.

Regardless of how the litigation is resolved, Long said the worst case scenario for the CCIA is that the authority will be forced to pay a “nominal” penalty to Pierson.

Meanwhile, the CCIA’s Feb. 2 decision to reject all bids will stand, no matter what.

“Nothing is going to stop the CCIA from moving forward with modifying the scope of work and producing a much smaller project,” Long said after a hearing Friday in Superior Court in Cumberland County regarding the CETCO motion.

At the hearing, Superior Court Judge Michael Brooke Fisher denied a number of motions to focus in on the key question of whether Pierson should have been disqualified from the landfill project.

Rainear, who is currently handling the responsibilities of CCIA executive director, said Friday that the CCIA’s professional staff is currently doing an estimate on how much life is left in the county landfill.

The original $15 million landfill expansion would have immediately added 30 acres to the landfill.

“It was estimated to take us to 2034,” Rainear said.

The question now is whether the CCIA has the ability to do a phased-in expansion.

“At some point, we’re going to have to expand this landfill,” he said.

As for the bond which was issued last year that the CCIA planned to use to pay for the landfill expansion, Rainear said the money received from the bond could be used to pay off the bond’s debt service.

Rainear said that “very little” interest has accumulated on the bond, which brought the CCIA’s outstanding debt to $46.3 million last year, an increase of about $24 million.

“That’s a fixed cost, no matter how much the price of the project goes down,” he said.

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