By Deb Murphy

Inyo County’s Assistant Administrator Rick Benson opened the discussion at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting on the Bishop landfill lease, saying “we’re not too excited by it,” an extraordinary understatement, especially considering the 400-percent increase in the lease payment.

The Supervisors weren’t too excited either, coming up with a few suggestions on what the landowner and one of the major landfill users, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power could do with its trash.

The County and the department have been working on the new lease (the old one expired in 2009) since March of last year. Without a signed lease, LADWP would not sign off on a new permit with CalRecycle that will get the County out from under what amounts to serial weight violations.

According to Benson, CalRecycle won’t wait forever on the new permit before it starts levying $10,000 for each day the County goes over its permitted weight allowance.

“We have the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads,” Benson said, adding that as bad as the lease is, he had to recommend approval. The Supervisors will make that decision at its January 17 meeting.

So what’s the issue with the lease? Here’s a hint: County Counsel wanted a “reasonable” clause included in areas where written consent from the department is requested. LADWP rejected the concept, coming back with any required consent is “within LADWP’s sole and absolute discretion.”

Benson ran off a litany of the unexciting elements of the lease, just a few of the 53 changes from the prior lease:

The County has been paying $4,900 a year on the expired lease. The new lease, limited to a three-year lifespan, requires a lease payment of $22,637 in the third and final year, a 400 percent increase.

According to Benson LADWP wants a piece of the action, although the landfill operation is not self-sustaining. The department wants to monitor water use and charge 57-cents a ton for the dirt from the site used for trash cover.

If the LA City Council decides it needs the land, the lease can be terminated with 180 days notice.

While traditionally county landfills are exempt from paying property taxes, the County has been required to pick up the $9,000 annual tab and will continue to do so, in addition to the $22,637 lease payment.

The County has to put together an education program to combat illegal dumping and assume responsibility for clean-up of illegal dump sites within a quarter-mile of the landfill.

The department will determine if the County’s litter control procedures are adequate. Any repair in the fencing has to be completed within seven days.

LADWP wants to keep tabs on any new regulations impacting the site, requiring 14-day compliance, a much shorter time period than is required by regulatory agencies. The department will require written consent for any modification to permits, licenses, orders, etc.

LADWP wants quarterly meetings with County staff as well as the same financial assurance documentations in the event of a landfill closure required by CalRecycle.

The lease requires LADWP approval of signage at the landfill and detailed information on any landfill improvement projects which the department has to approve.

In addition to state and federal regulations, the County now has to comply with all City of Los Angeles ordinances.

The County just adjusted fees to haulers based on weight. Bishop Waste and Preferred Septic and Disposal will be paying $50 a ton starting in March, an increase that could result in a $6 per bin increase to customers.

Benson said, in a worst case scenario, the new lease could result in an increase in the cost of operating the landfill by $19 a ton.

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