Council OKs bonds to close cell

The Tangipahoa Parish Council agreed to issue $2.4 million in bonds to pay for final capping and closure of a solid waste disposal cell at the parish landfill near Independence.

Bond attorneys retained by the council will seek State Bond Commission approval to sell the 30-year bonds.

Jeff McKneely, parish finance director and administrative assistant to Parish President Gordon Burgess, said during Monday’s council meeting that the bonds can be repaid much sooner than 30 years.

McKneely said the parish has been working with the state Department of Environmental Quality for years on plans to shut down the landfill’s Cell 10 as well as deal with erosion problems at the same site.

McKneely said if the cell was not properly closed, the parish could face DEQ fines of up to $50,000 a day. The cell will remain closed and intact for at least 30 years.

“This will fix the problem forever,” McKneely told the council.

McKneely said the parish landfill is in a “solid financial position.” He said tipping fees at the landfill and surplus funds from the parish’s solid waste disposal program are more than adequate to repay the bonds.

The question of whether or not to sell the bonds to close the landfill cell initially was addressed by the Tangipahoa Parish Council Garbage District No. 1 Committee, comprised of all members of the council.

At that meeting, Councilman Greg Varnado said that while he was not against the council issuing bonds, he wanted more information about why it was necessary to use “borrowed money” to close the landfill cell.

Varnado moved to table the matter but his motion died for lack of a second. The committee then voted to recommend to the entire council approval for issuance of the bonds. Varnado voted against the measure at the garbage district meeting.

Tangipahoa Parish rarely has issued bonds or borrowed money for any projects. Burgess, who has been president of the council-president form of government since it was approved by a home rule charter more than 20 years ago, has steadfastly defended a “pay as you go policy.”

Each year, when Burgess presents his proposed parish budget to the council for approval, he notes that his policy of not borrowing money has worked very well and has helped maintain a healthy financial outlook for Tangipahoa Parish.