I am a bit off my usual posts for this website, where I typically speak about brand, website design, and marketing issues. This time it is a public issue that concerns our entire Hampton Road region. However, it is the same type of issue involved in branding – unforeseen consequences of change.
In a rare fit of regional cooperation over 20 years ago, eight localities (Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight, and Southampton) came together under the SPSA (Southeastern Public Service Authority) to handle most trash. The facilities major facilities are in Portsmouth. A very important output of the facility is burning trash and selling the energy to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth to heat their 94 odd buildings, for a green initiative of “waste-to-energy” conversion. It has worked well since it began.
A Highly Complex Issue
Each entity pays a “tipping fee” per ton of trash. This contract ends in 2018.There is a “delta” that needs to be addressed. The cost of the tipping fees will come down – yes, down – after the contract with Wheelabrator, Technologies which now owns the facility, ends in 2018. They bought it and the debt it carried, in order to maintain the facility and continue to sell energy to the Navy. Use of landfills is cheaper. As Shakespeare quipped “therein lies the rub”. If the Navy loses the energy from this deal – currently supplying 40% of the mandated renewable energy to their mid-Atlantic region, could it fuel a decision to close this base? Yes, it could. To that end, please see the attached letter from John C Harvey, Admiral, USN, Rtd. and acting Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs. Click the link and you can see the letter. Trash Haul Letter from Secretary Harvey
Long Term Decisions VS Short Term Gains
The Navy obviously does not want to lose this valuable resource. Portsmouth stands to lose $1.3 million in tax revenue, nearly 150 jobs, a great corporate citizen, and the third largest user of water in the city. The water is turned into steam by four turbines at the shipyard.
The letter, sent to all area mayors (this one is a copy of one to Will Sessoms of Virginia Beach) strongly urges us to consider possible long-term economic impact if we force the Navy to look elsewhere, as well as abandonment of a highly successful “Green Initiative”. That’s on top of the $1.3 million dollars in lost tax revenue to Portsmouth and the third largest consumer of city water.
When the next base realignment comes, and it will come amid further military spending cuts, the loss of the shipyard will be devastating.
I don’t have a final answer to this complex issue. All I know is that it needs to come to light for the citizens of Hampton Roads and particularly of the citizens of Portsmouth.