Committee debates future of landfill: Talley questions if parish should run facility on its own

Published 3:58 am Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Washington Parish Solid Waste Committee met Thursday for a heated meeting over the future of the parish’s landfill.

At the end of the meeting, the committee recommended extending a contract for the existing landfill management company for 3.5 years. This is the same conclusion the committee reached the last time it met in November.

The landfill is currently managed jointly by the parish and Landworks, LLC, a local company owned by Louis Creel. Creel’s company has had a contract with the parish since 1995, although from time to time the parish has put out request for proposals (RFPs) for other operators. However, by law, the parish is not required to do this every time it renews the contract.

Since the parish’s contract with Creel expired six months ago, the parish’s administration had suggested simply renewing the contract for three-and-a-half more years — the duration of another regular contract.

However, late last year councilman Perry Talley worked on his own cost estimates and arrived at a couple of plans he believes could save the parish anywhere from $184,441 to $254,269.

Nevertheless, at the Solid Waste Committee’s last meeting last year, the committee passed —unanimously — a motion to recommend the council offer a 3.5-year contract to Landworks. Besides Talley, Chris Workman and Levi Lewis are also on the committee.

However, despite that vote, that recommendation never made it to the council’s agenda because, Talley said Thursday, “a majority of the members of this committee decided that more discussion on the motion was required before it went to the full council.”

For one-and-a-half hours Thursday night, Talley debated with those who favored giving Landworks another full contract. Talley suggested giving the company a much shorter contract and, in the meantime, putting out another RFP and looking into the cost of the parish managing the entire landfill.

About 20 people were in attendance for the Solid Waste Committee meeting — more citizens who typically show up to regular council meetings. Many of those in attendance were employees of the landfill. Three in the audience, Reginald McMasters, Pete Thomas and Michael Fussell, were fellow councilmen. Creel was also in the audience, although he didn’t speak.

One notable absence was Bogalusa Mayor Wendy Perrette. Choctaw Landfill is a joint venture between the parish and the city and Perrette was on the agenda to speak. However, Perrette ducked in prior to the meeting, handed out a few letters to councilmen and then left.

Virtually everybody at the meeting was opposed to offering a short, temporary contract to Landworks, though everyone liked the idea of looking to save money. However, Donna Graham, the parish’s director of finances, seemed skeptical the parish could save money. She pointed out that she’d done a comparison of neighboring parishes, and Washington Parish pays about what other parishes pay. She explained to the committee that on average over the last three years, Washington Parish pays  $44 per ton on its waste. Tangipahoa Parish pays $43 and St. Tammany Parish and St. Tammany Parish pays $55 dollars per ton.

McMasters, as a member of the audience, asked Talley why the parish should bother going out for an RFP at all.

“”If we’ve been the best landfill in the state of Louisiana, is there any reason why he’s been proven to not do a good job,” he asked.

Talley explained in an interview later, he is not suggesting that Creel isn’t doing a good job. He just wants to see if the parish can save money.

“My only interest is working for the people of the parish and using our resources to the best of our ability,” he said. “I have nothing against the existing contractor or anybody else who would be interested in contracting it. But I don’t work for them — I work for the people of this parish.”

Council attorney Wayne Kuhn said under state law, a public body can award a landfill contract for up to 25 years and it doesn’t have to bid out the job because landfills are considered “exceptionally necessary.” However, under the parish’s charter, the landfill bids must be renewed every four years, for the length of the term of the parish president.

The last time the parish went out for an RFP was in 2011.

Graham also pointed out that Creel had been given 10-year contracts in the past.

The landfill’s manager, Troy Barber, was in attendance and he addressed Talley with some emotion and suggested that Talley’s move was perhaps evidence of favoritism.

“Why an RFP? Why? There has to be someone on this committee who has a voter in their district that would like to have a stab at the landfill,” he said. “That’s my opinion. There is nobody in Washington Parish who has the expertise to run that landfill except that man sitting right over there (as he pointed to Creel). That’s my opinion … As far as going out for a bid at some point, I have no problem with that. The administration has no problem with that. But now is not the time to do it.”

After the meeting, Talley said he is not looking to help someone get “a stab” at the landfill contract. He pointed out that his own research indicated that nobody should have a contract and that the parish should run the place on its own.

Still, he said he felt that his ideas would be considered at some point in the future.

“I am optimistic that it will be considered,” he said.