BROOKSVILLE — With a landfill quickly filling up, the news that the state was preparing to approve an expansion was welcomed by county officials late last week.
On Tuesday, the County Commission moved the project further ahead when it agreed to spend $792,000 to begin digging the hole for the new landfill cell. A local firm, Goodwin Brothers Construction Inc., won the bid.
But even with those two pieces of good news, when commission Chairman Dave Russell asked hopefully whether the county could avoid the expensive process of shipping garbage elsewhere, he didn't get the answer he was hoping for.
County utilities director Joe Stapf told Russell that there was no way to get the landfill expansion finished before the existing cell fills up, which should be by January. Constructing the new cell and getting an operational permit will take "well into 2010,'' Stapf said.
"We can prolong the life of the existing cell if we can haul out of county,'' he added.
County officials don't want to completely fill the active cell with garbage before the new cell is ready because closing and covering it prior to the opening of the new cell would be expensive.
County staffers worry that delays in getting the expansion permit would run the cost of hauling garbage elsewhere to the point that large increases might be needed in the solid waste assessment fee that property owners pay on their property tax bills.
Stapf said he was working with commercial and residential haulers to find some solutions that will not be so costly. He promised to bring more information to a future commission meeting.
Russell said he was anxious to see a solution that will save dollars, and Stapf noted that there has been some discussion about offering a bonus to the company that wins the construction contract if the company is able to get the work done ahead of schedule.
Stapf was also happy to share with commissioners that, late last week, he received the pre-permit for the expansion from the state Department of Environmental Regulation. That "notice of intent to issue'' is the initial step in the approval process.
"I'm going to frame it,'' he quipped.
If there are no objections over the 14 days after publication of the notice, the agency will issue the permit.
In related business, a resident questioned whether it was wise to hire the same firm awarded the contract to dig the dirt for the landfill expansion for another project on Tuesday's agenda. Goodwin Brothers also won the contract to make roadway improvements at Northcliffe and Mariner boulevards in Spring Hill.
Would the roadwork delay the landfill work, asked resident Michael Burmann.
Stapf said he did not think so because the firm has plenty of employees who have been idled by the slowdown at local mining operations.
In another related matter, commissioners approved spending nearly $95,000 to buy a water tanker for the landfill. The tanker helps control materials blowing around the site, something state environmental regulators have been watching.
"We do have to maintain dust control,'' Stapf said.
He added that the truck would also be useful in fighting occasional fires at the landfill.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.