Commissioners table Sunland landfill request

The Clovis City Commission, with aims to avoid a sticky situation on fee waivers, tabled a request Thursday night to help reduce landfill costs for a local peanut plant.

Portales-based Sunland Inc., in operation since 1988, has massive disposal issues associated with a nationwide recall of products. A salmonella outbreak was traced back to a product made at the plant, and a recall eventually included all products made at the plant after March 10, 2010.

Those products are now being disposed of at the Clovis city landfill.

The Thursday commission meeting included Eastern Plains Council of Governments Affairs Director Ray Mondragon, Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Karl Terry and Sunland Vice President and Controller Roddy Pearce, who asked the commission to consider a reduction in tipping fees to $20 per ton for the first 30 truckloads of material brought to the landfill.

Any material beyond the first 30 truckloads — Pearce estimated a total of 33 truckloads — would be subject to the standard $30 per ton fee at the landfill. The company has already trucked in about 14 loads, and would work out a future reimbursement if a discount was given.

The fee savings amounted to roughly $6,600.

Commissioner Randy Crowder led a charge to push Sunland in another direction. He said he was all for helping Sunland in its time of need, and considered the plant a valuable job creator for eastern New Mexico.

But he was concerned with the message a fee waiver would send to citizens considering the agenda also had new fee recommendations from the city's revenue review committee. Recommendations included a 6 percent raise in sanitation fees and a request that commissioners respect fee structures in place.

"The timing is absolutely terrible," Crowder said. "We're raising (sanitation) fees 6 percent, and then Roosevelt County asks us to waive $6,600."

Crowder said if Sunland was interested in studying the issue further, the city might be able to give a higher amount of money to Sunland in economic development money. Terry and Pearce said they would be amenable to such an arrangement.

"Sometimes we don't do enough in retention," Terry said. "We have a perfect opportunity here."

Mayor David Lansford asked if Sunland could give the peanuts to the city of Portales, which could then send them to the landfill at a lower fee for government entities. But commissioners presumed that Portales would violate the state's anti-donation clause by accepting contaminated products and their inherent liability.

The clause is a state law that does not allow a municipality to give free or discounted services to non-government entities, but Clovis does have an exception for economic development.

Commissioner Dan Stoddard asked if the issue was something Clovis and Portales officials could study and tackle in a future commission meeting. Since Sunland is currently paying the standard tipping fees, Pearce and Terry agreed the company could treat the matter as if it were a potential reimbursement.

Later in the meeting, the commission adopted the sanitation fee increases, with City Engineer Justin Howalt noting the increases only get the city back to the point where it isn't losing money on the landfill — paid for by landfill fees, sanitation fees and a one-16th-of-a-percent gross receipts tax increment. The sanitation fee increases will be implemented April 1.

Other fees approved by the commission were a $150 charge for private individuals requesting street closures; and fees for digital maps from the information technology department (digital downloads free for two layers of information and $30 per hour for each additional layer applied, and map printout prices between $10 and $25 with $30 per hour for each additional layer applied).

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