Ada County commissioners will hold a hearing Tuesday to accept public testimony on a resolution to sever ties with Dynamis - and agree not to seek repayment of the $2 million Ada County paid Dynamis two years ago to design the project.
The project was approved in 2010 without a public hearing - one of the points that angered opponents of the county's public/private partnership to build a garbage-gasification plant at the county landfill.
As part of its separation deal with Dynamis, the county agreed not to pursue other litigation against Dynamis, and Dynamis agreed not to take legal action against the county for the $70 million it claims it could be out if the plant is not built.
The deal with Dynamis brings to an end more than two years of delays, confusion, public outcry and even an official investigation into the experimental waste-to-energy project that never broke ground. The public outcry over the county's handling of the project was largely responsible for Commissioner Sharon Ullman being turned out of office in last year's Republican primary.
Commission Chairman Dave Case said the three commissioners decided that not pursuing the $2 million payment would likely be cheaper in the long run.
"This current administration did not lose that $2 million. We fought to get it back," Case said. "But once we got in and we had the opportunity to look at everything, we realized the extreme risk the county was facing."
Ullman was Dynamis' strongest proponent as well as the commissioners' liaison with Dynamis until she left office Jan. 13.
Case has been in office since May. But he said in the months he served with Ullman, he was unable to get details about the Dynamis project.
Ullman could not be reached for comment Friday. When she left office, Case said, he and fellow Commissioners Rick Yzaguirre and Jim Tibbs finally had full access to all the Dynamis files and information.
"What was so alarming is the entire board is not confident that the commissioner who served as project liaison was keeping them all equally and fully informed on the details of this project as it unfolded," Case said.
Yzaguirre had been allied with Ullman in supporting Dynamis. Case said he thinks that has changed; Yzaguirre could not be reached for comment Friday.
"Once we got into this and started looking at everything, all three of us stood shoulder to shoulder," Case said.
Case said the most troubling information the commissioners learned was that the county faced the "potential liability" of $70 million - $10 million Dynamis says it had already put into the project and future revenue it stood to gain when the facility went online.
Case said Dynamis did not directly threaten litigation. "But it was pointed out to us that this was what they had out there and what we had out there was $2 million," he said. "We didn't want another Boise County."
Case referred to a $5.4 million judgment Boise County was ordered to pay a developer after denying an application for a youth treatment facility.
Dynamis officials could not be reached for comment Friday. In a press release issued by the county, CEO C. Lloyd Mahaffey said Dynamis was "disappointed that the schedule no longer allows for the project to proceed."
The Dynamis uproar was not just about a lack of public hearings. Opponents expressed concern about the county financing what many said was unproven technology; Dynamis' lack of experience; and possible health and environmental risks from incinerating up to 408 tons of trash and tires daily in a region already plagued with air quality problems.
The public also had questions about Dynamis' financing and assets. In 2012, an East Coast private equity fund filed notice with the state that it was claiming a "direct ownership interest" in Dynamis assets as part of a financing agreement.
The county still faces two lawsuits filed by groups opposing the Dynamis project.
"We are very happy the deal is dead, although it may not necessarily resolve the existing dispute," said Andrew Schoppe, attorney for Idaho Citizens for a Safe Environment and Transparent Government. "That lawsuit is about the deeds that were done and how the county conducted itself."
Courtney Washburn with the Idaho Conservation League said her group will not make a decision on future litigation until after commissioners vote on terminating the contract - which she called "a win for clean air and families across the Treasure Valley."
Jim Farrens, a county engineer who resigned, in part, over the commissioners' handling of the Dynamis project, said Friday he was pleased with news. "It appears Ada County is in good hands," he said.
Ending the Dynamis arrangement lifts "a big burden" off the county's shoulders, Case said. "We wish Dynamis luck with their project. I don't know where they are going to go or what they are going to do," he said.
The next step for the county, he said, is repairing its damaged relationships with the public, cities and other elected officials.
"We have a lot of rebuilding to do to get the public's trust back," he said. "The citizens did not feel like they were heard by the county. The county should have gone through the proper processes and that did not happen."
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell