Tangipahoa may sell bonds to close landfill

The Tangipahoa Parish Council, on a split vote Monday, introduced and set for public hearing an ordinance that would authorize the issuance of $2.4 million in bonds to pay for improvements to the parish landfill near Independence.

If the measure meets with final approval at the council’s next meeting, set for Feb. 25, proceeds from the sale of bonds will be used primarily to fund closure of an area of the landfill known as Cell 10.

At a meeting of Garbage District No. 1 two weeks ago, Jeff McKneely, parish finance director, told council members sitting as commissioners of the district, that it was necessary to close the unused cell and to correct problems with erosion near that cell.

McKneely, also an assistant to Parish President Gordon Burgess, said the parish has been working with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality on resolving problems with the cell for several years and that the time had come to cap and close the unit “and be done with the problem once and for all.”

McKneely said at that time that if the cell were not properly sealed, the DEQ could fine the parish as much as $50,000 a day.

The proposed ordinance passed by the council Monday calls for “acquiring, constructing, extending and improving the parish landfill including the cost of placing a cap on the portion of the landfill no longer accepting waste.”

The bonds, which will are to be retired in 30 years, will be repaid with funds from profits realized by Garbage District No. 1 which, McKneely said earlier, now has a surplus of about $2 million and tipping fees at the landfill.

He said the parish should have no problem repaying the bonds and it could be done within a few years.

Burgess, who has been parish president since the home rule charter establishing the council-president form of government was approved by voters more than 20 years ago, has been reluctant to borrow funds for infrastructure improvements.

Each year, as a preface to his budget message to the council, Burgess notes that his “pay as you go” philosophy has served the parish well and that the parish is on a sound financial footing.

In his presentation of the bond proposal at the last meeting, McKneely said that funds were needed immediately to close Cell 10 at the landfill and to make other improvements and that the quickest way the parish could resolve the matter was to sell the bonds.

Only Councilman Greg Varnado voted against the measure. At the Garbage District meeting two weeks ago, Varnado said that while he was not against utilizing the sale of bonds for parish improvements, he had not been shown the necessity for selling the bonds at this time.