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October 22, 2010

 

Date set for public hearing on landfill

People will have a chance to review recommendations in report on facility’s operation

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

The public will have a chance to review the pros and cons of selling, leasing or expanding the Cortland County landfill at a public hearing set for 6 p.m. Dec. 6 at the County Office Building auditorium.
At the hearing, the Niagara Falls-based consultant EnSol Inc. plans to present these solutions and others it has recommended for the county to resolve its debt problem at the landfill.
Until 2032 the county is paying off an $11,310,000 bond it took out in 2008. Approximately $9.1 million of that bond is to pay off past construction and closure costs at the landfill.
For 2010 the county is saddled with paying $785,450 toward its landfill debt payment. In 2011 the payment will be approximately $815,000, according to Treasurer Patrick O’Mara.
The county has to plan for approximately $5 million in future closure costs at the landfill on top of this debt.
EnSol President John Battaglia presented a report of the firm’s findings to the county Highway Committee at a special meeting Thursday, at which legislators set the public hearing date.
Legislators said after Thursday’s meeting they are analyzing the report and are eager for public feedback.
“The one thing we can’t do is let it go status quo,” Highway Committee Co-chair John Troy (D-1st Ward) said.
The status quo entails leaving operations at the county landfill the same and allowing the county to continue to keep a facility that EnSol estimates to run an annual deficit of $3.1 million.
This deficit accounts for closure, operational costs and debt at the landfill.
Although the landfill revenues in the 2010 budget are approximately $520,900, the debt is causing the landfill to operate at a deficit of approximately $99,524 over the 23-year debt service payment, according to EnSol. The county is in its second year of debt payment.
According to the report, the most financially rewarding long term solution to the county’s fiscal problem at the landfill, is expanding the landfill into a regional facility, either by selling or leasing it or keeping it county-run.
Making it a regional facility is projected to bring in about a $1 million profit annually over the 35-year life of the landfill.
Battaglia said he studied the area and determined a regional facility in Cortland County could draw in 2,000 to 3,000 tons of refuse a day, or nearly 1.1 million tons annually.
The landfill, situated on 540 acres, currently handles 20,000 tons annually.
The growth would likely bring about 10 trucks each hour on local roads that would have to be reconstructed to accommodate the heavy traffic. Approximately 3.3 miles of Shippey Road and Parks Road would have to be reconstructed at a cost of $2.5 million, according to EnSol.
The financial benefit of another option, to implement a flow control law, which would legislate that all trash generated in the county is disposed of at the county landfill, would depend on the internal controls, Battaglia said.
He said some municipalities have had problems with flow control because they start raising tipping fees to pay for various projects.
Highway Committee Chair David Fuller (R-Cincinnatus, Taylor, Freetown and Willet) said he is not sold on flow control.
Fuller is concerned that flow control could result in consumers being forced to pay higher tipping fees because they cannot ship their trash to another facility.
“One thing I don’t like about flow control ... is that it sets up a monopoly and a monopoly is not always the best thing for consumers,” Fuller said.
Fuller said he would prefer selling the landfill to leasing it because that would release the county from liability since contracts can be worded to eliminate that obligation. With leasing the facility, however, the county would be faced with liability arising from environmental issues later on down the road, said Battaglia.
Legislator Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville) said it is too early to reach a conclusion about what to do with the landfill.
“I want the public to have an opportunity to hear what we heard and have any other questions answered so that the public is given the same opportunity we were today,” Briggs said.
Local haulers who attended the meeting want to hear more about all options.
Myron Williams, who owns Cortland Sanitation, said he does not think privatizing is the answer.
Williams said the hilly roads to the landfill will create dangerous situations for the heavy truck traffic, particularly in the winter.
Ray Oliver, who owns You Call it We Haul it said whatever solution the county comes to, everyone should have to pay the same tipping fee and there should not be preferential treatment given to certain haulers.
Fuller said any money that is received from a change in operations should go toward capital improvements in the county, such as road and buildings repair and the repair of the jail roof, for example.
Fuller expects the county to make a decision on what to do with the landfill within a year.

 

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