Biomass International Inc., unable to sell bonds for a proposed solid waste recycling plant at the Weber County landfill, now wants to raise the money by charging more for garbage dumping.
Biomass officials also have told the Weber Area Council of Governments that the delay in obtaining financing for the project has put it two or three years behind schedule.The company was scheduled to take over the county landfill on July 1, but it has not been able to sell $25 million in industrial revenue bonds the county issued in December. The proceeds were to be loaned to Biomass for construction of the plant.
Now, Biomass officials have proposed taking over the landfill as scheduled and increasing the tipping fee to $22 a ton. At present, the county pays $8.23 a ton to landfill operator BFI Waste Systems.
The tipping fee for an Ogden household would increase from 75 cents to $2.02 a month. South Ogden would go from $1.18 to $3.16 and North Ogden residents would pay $3.44 instead of $1.29 per month.
Biomass President Alan Neves said under his plan, residents would not only get waste disposal, but recycling and a reduction in the amount of garbage buried at the landfill, thus extending its life.
Council of Governments officials made no commitments to Biomass but decided at North Ogden Mayor Bruce Dursteler's request that representatives from each city should meet with the Council of Governments' solid-waste committee to study the proposal.
"It's a political hot potato to talk about a tipping increase of that magnitude," said Weber County Commission Chairman Lowell Peterson.
The proposed recycling center is the first step toward Biomass' goal of converting trash - excluding glass, metal and plastic - into ethanol, a gasoline supplement that reduces carbon monoxide emissions.
The glass, metal and plastic would be resold.
After two or three years of running the recycling center, Biomass would build a demonstration plant, and several years later a complete conversion plant at a cost of $35 million to $40 million.
Dursteler said he had concerns about "being held hostage by the tipping fee" and was surprised by Biomass' request. He said the county would be taking a big risk by raising the fee.
But Ogden Assistant Mayor Darrell Saunders said municipal leaders need to be a little more farsighted.
"The thing that comes to my mind is that do we pay now or pay later?" he said.
Neves said at the rate the landfill is being used, it will be filled in 10 to 15 years and another will have to be built.
He said if Biomass is able to move ahead with its new proposal, it can reduce the amount of trash going to the dump by 50 percent and double its lifespan.
Biomass officials say that when the entire project is complete, 94 percent less material will be buried and the landfill's life extended by more than a century.