PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The fate of the Bay County Incinerator has been decided, as county leaders unanimously voted to move forward with shutting it down for good at their commission meeting on Tuesday.
Commissioners said the incinerator, which burns the area’s trash and converts it to energy, has become financially irresponsible to maintain.
“The only time this thing ever made money was really when it caught on fire,” said commissioner Tommy Hamm. “That’s really the truth. We were able to get insurance payments coming in to fix and repair and all this kind of stuff, that’s really the only time it’s ever been profitable.”
They said that since it was built in 1984, they’ve spent millions in repairs.
“The parts continuously break and they’re very expensive parts,” said commissioner Bill Dozier.
According to Bay County staff, the revenue from the power production of the facility has decreased by 60 percent over the last five years. They also say the facility is only operational 80 percent of the time due to consistent maintenance issues.
“It’s old, antiquated, and it’s gone way past its life cycle,” Hamm said. “We’re looking at massive savings for the taxpayer.”
Commissioners said trash collectors will also see savings, since they are lowering the cost to drop off trash per ton at Steel Field Landfill.
However, some trash collection companies are skeptical of the change.
“Going all the way from the east side to the west side now is going to be time consuming,” said David Otano, President and CEO of Coqui Disposal Service off of Tyndall Parkway. He said while he understands the reasons for shutting down the incinerator, the alternative option of Steel Field landfill may be more costly for his business than helpful.
“You’re talking about traffic, you’re talking about maintenance on tires, you’re talking about extra fuel,” Otano said. “Those numbers, I guess we’ll actually get to see them when it happens.”
He said he hopes haulers are involved in the conversation moving forward to work out solutions.
County leaders said the incinerator will be shut down sometime in the next year, giving 180 days notice.
Click here for a history of the Bay County incinerator.