BY NANCY COOK LAUER | WEST HAWAII TODAY
HILO -- A Kailua-Kona company is pitching a plan to put a county-owned white elephant to immediate use while extending the life of the Hilo Landfill.
Pacific Waste Inc. and affiliated company BioEnergy Hawaii LLC will make a presentation to the County Council Environmental Management Committee at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Hilo council chambers.
The company had previously approached the county administration about the plan, according to a June 22 letter from Project Manager Clint Knox to Council Chairman Dominic Yagong. The plan, at apparently no cost to the county, would put the facility to use much more quickly than a traditional county request for and evaluation of proposals.
"We would like to reaffirm that our original intention was to enter into a public-private partnership, which would allow us to immediately begin detailed discussions with the county to expedite the completion and operations of the proposed facility," Knox said in the letter.
"We continue to believe that this would be the best method to pursue, but pursuant to previous discussions with county officials, we understand that it is the county's intention to enter into the procurement process through an RFP for the operations at the sort station," he added.
Yagong said he'd heard the company had met with the administration and he wanted to find out more, leading him to schedule a presentation.
"I thought it would be a good idea for the council to hear the proposal," Yagong said Friday. "There is a possibility of the county gaining revenues and at the same time help reduce what goes into the landfill."
Environmental Management Director Frank DeMarco said company officials met with him and Mayor Billy Kenoi on April 12. He denied the county officials gave the company the cold shoulder, and he said he himself has had follow-up conversations with BioEnergy Hawaii about the proposal.
The county currently plans to undertake the sorting project itself, DeMarco said. He said it's important the county keep control over its waste stream to finance projects already under way and costing taxpayers money. In addition, he said, there will be union legal issues if the county turned over to a private company work currently being done by county employees.
"We are forever getting vendors in here that have the solutions to all our problems," DeMarco said. "Some of them have great ideas, and others just want to make a buck off the taxpayers."
The company proposes a public-private partnership that would use the garbage sort station to divert usable components of the waste stream and ultimately use the residuals to create energy.
The company says it would save the county $900,000 in the first year of operations and $1.3 million after that in avoided costs, and another $120,000 per year by reducing two positions at the landfill.
In the plan submitted to the committee, Pacific Waste says it would use the 20,000-square-foot sort station to create a material recovery facility. It would modify the building and design, manufacture and design the proposed MRF processing equipment at its own cost.
The company also pledges to pay for all operations, maintenance and utility cost. Twenty-four new "green" jobs would be created.
In return, Pacific Waste would receive all tipping fees and the gross receipts of all marketable materials. The county would get a discount on the tipping fee, under the proposed 20-year contract.
BioEnergy Hawaii last month was granted an extension on $100 million in revenue bonds for a similar plant near the Natural Energy Laboratory, which would convert up to 300 tons of solid waste to pellets that decompose into gases that would be used to drive steam through generators.
The sort station was originally conceived under the Mayor Harry Kim administration as an adjunct to a waste-to-energy garbage incinerator.
The County Council balked at the $125.5 million price tag for the incinerator, but work had already proceeded on the sort station. Work on the facility began in 2003, but changes mandated by the Hawaii County Council slowed completion. It was originally scheduled for completion in April 2007 and then May 2009.
It's currently being used as a storage depot for tires and other materials.
The county plans to use the sort station to remove paper, organic waste and green waste from garbage before it goes to the Hilo landfill. Trash would be dumped on the plant floor and workers operating a mini-excavator and loaders would sort the recyclable before reloading the truck for the landfill.
This step, which would require three workers on the plant floor, would cut from 5 percent to as much as 40 percent from the volume of garbage going to the Hilo landfill, thus lengthening its life span.
DeMarco said last month the budget includes funding for five transfer station workers. That would free up the workers needed for the sort station, he said. The sort station could be up and running in 30 days, he said.
But Pacific Waste contends it can ramp that diversion rate up to 70 percent the first year and 80 percent once Phase II is in place incorporating the post-recycled fuel product. DeMarco disputes that estimate as too optimistic.
Yagong said his invitation for Pacific Waste to make a presentation doesn't mean it's a done deal.
"Obviously, the county would have to open it up to proposals from everybody," Yagong said.