March 25, 2011
Legislators balk at solid waste plan
They say more time is needed to review document that governs landfill, recycling center
Citing confusion over what the plan entails, Cortland County lawmakers Thursday held off on approving a modification to the county’s solid waste management plan, a document that lawmakers crafted in 2009 but never submitted to the state.
The modification plan updated the county’s plan to reflect the current 2009 practices at the county landfill and recycling center. Highway Committee Chairman Dave Fuller (R-Cincinnatus, Taylor, Freetown and WIllet) and Deputy Highway Superintendent Bob Buerkle stressed that the modification plan does not signal any changes in the current operating procedures at the landfill and the associated recycling center.
The county is required to file the document with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
In 2010, when the new Legislature was seated, lawmakers held off on submitting the plan in anticipation of further revising the document to allow for changing the solid waste operations in an attempt to make them profitable.
The county’s consultant, EnSol Inc., which has studied cost-saving measures at the county landfill, recommended last year the county file the document to comply with state law. The plan could then be further modified as needed, depending on what the county decides to do to solve the approximately $14 million debt at the landfill.
Between operations and annual debt service costs at both the county landfill and the recycling center, the county is projected to lose $736,635 this year.
As of the end of 2010, the landfill had an $8.8 million bond still outstanding. Interest on that is $5.2 million and yearly payments are $634,149 until 2032.
As of the end of 2010 the recycling center had a $2.4 million bond still outstanding with about $992,000 interest remaining. Yearly payments on that obligation are $190,430 until 2028.
Legislators plan to modify the county’s solid waste practices to double the yearly intake of trash, allow acceptance of out-of-county trash and approved contaminated materials to be used as fill, among other initiatives.
These latest revisions, not included in the modification plan discussed last night, must be made and filed with the state, said Fuller.
Fuller said the 2009 plan reflects what is presently happening at the landfill and recycling center to control solid waste. The county’s previous plan is outdated and must be replaced before being further modified.
But Thursday, lawmakers wanted more time to review the document, saying they are not familiar with it or the previous document it amends.
Fuller withdrew the resolution from Thursday’s agenda item after hearing questions from many of his fellow legislators.
Legislator Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville) said she wanted to look at the document before voting on it.
“I wasn’t here in 2009 and I haven’t seen the previous solid waste plan, so I am uncomfortable voting on a plan I have not seen,” Briggs said after the meeting.
Buerkle spoke generally of solid waste management plans at the meeting, saying he was not familiar enough with the county’s document to educate lawmakers on it. Highway Superintendent Don Chambers, who is familiar with the document, was not present Thursday.
Buerkle said the modified plan would take into account growth at the landfill, such as increased leachate and cover soils needed there.
Fuller delayed the vote on the plan, saying he wants to give legislators more time to familiarize themselves with the document so they can be prepared to change it in the future. Fuller has recommended revising the law to allow the county to accept trash from haulers outside the county and increase its yearly tonnage from about 22,000 tons to about 44,000 tons.
“I’m trying to push through changes, and people don’t understand what they will be modifying,” Fuller said after the meeting.
“It is an educational process I think is necessary,” Fuller said, of giving legislators more time to familiarize themselves with the solid waste management plan.
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