ATLANTA -- West Virginia's Gov. Gaston Caperton is expected soon to sign legislation authorizing the state to sell an additional $200 million of revenue bonds for solid waste management, an official said yesterday.
Tom Heywood, Gov. Caperton's chief of staff, said the governor would approve the bill, which the legislature passed last Friday, despite earlier reservations about increasing borrowing for this purpose.
"We had some initial concerns about adding on debt to pay for cleanup, but those concerns have been allayed because everybody now agrees that we will not rush into selling bonds for this purpose," Mr. Heywood said. "Also, the bill does much more than just provide for new bonding -- it presents a comprehensive solution to the problem of waste management."
The Solid Waste Management Act will permit the state's Solid Waste Management Board to sell up to $150 million in lease revenue bonds to fund cleanup and closure the state, according to Michael McThomas, counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. In addition, Mr. McThomas said, the bill expands the board's current authority to sell revenue bonds for construction of new waste management sites to $100 million from $50 million. A $25 million portion of this expanded authorization will be targeted to wastewater treatment facilities, he noted.
Debt service for all new bonds would be covered by a per-ton fee charged on waste disposal. Starting Jan. 1, 1992, $4 per ton will be added to existing disposal fees.
In its final version, the waste-disposal legislation resembles a bill passed by the state Senate last Tuesday, which also included a total increase of $200 million in bonding authority. Although the version passed by the House of Representatives the same day did not make a provision for an increase in bonding authority for cleanup of existing waste sites, it did increase the board's bonding authority for new construction to $150 million.
Mr. Heywood said the state will move cautiously in using its new bonding authority and doubts any debt will be sold to fund either the cleanup of existing sites or building of new ones before 1993.
"We are going to proceed slowly and get a good comprehensive picture of the problem before moving forward with new borrowings," he said. Although the bonds would be issued by the Solid Waste Management Board, the state's Water Development Authority will manage the cleanup program and serve as fiscal agent for any debt sold, Mr. Heywood added.
The bond authorization provided by the legislation is part of a more comprehensive bill that would tighten and streamline state solid waste management regulations.
Mr. Heywood said he does not foresee any other large new bond initiatives in the near future for the state. The only new project involving debt likely to be considered by the legislature when it meets in regular session next January, he said, is a program under consideration by the Division of Parks and Tourism to sell between $30 million and $50 million of bonds to build new recreational facilities.
According to Mr. Heywood, the Solid Waste Management Board currently has only about $10 million of debt outstanding, which means it could sell up to another $40 million in debt under its existing bond authorization.