December 24, 2013


Onondaga chair expects ash deal OK

Officials are hammering out an agreement before voting on approval

Staff Reporter

As Cortland County is proceeding with the environmental studies associated with accepting Onondaga County incinerator ash at the landfill, Onondaga has yet to vote to accept Cortland County’s trash.
Both Cortland and Onondaga counties will have to vote to change their local laws, Cortland to accept up to 90,000 tons of ash yearly and Onondaga to accept outside trash.
But some Cortland County officials like Legislator Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville) have expressed concern that Onondaga County might not vote to allow outside trash and the approximately $250,000 worth of environmental studies will be for naught.
The vote could come by April 2014, according to Onondaga County officials, since that is when an intermunicipal operating agreement, being worked on by Onondaga County Renewable Resources Agency, or OCRRA, and Cortland County officials, should be ready for review by both counties.
The document will outline the details of the plan in terms of what tipping fees would be charged and other particulars, said Cortland County Legislature Chair Mike Park (R-Homer).
Onondaga County Legislature Chair Ryan McMahon II expects the county’s eventual vote to allow outside trash to pass.
He says opposition to the idea comes from a small but vocal minority.
OCRRA owns the incinerator and provides solid waste management for Onondaga County.
Under the proposed deal, OCRRA would start sending incinerator ash to Cortland County in May 2015 when its current contract with Covanta Energy Corp., which operates the incinerator, is due to expire.
McMahon said Monday that the county would not vote to change its local law to accept outside trash until it has in writing the details of the agreement.
“Our legal counsel needs to look at the deal that OCRRA would sign with Cortland County and then draw up legislation for us to review and vote on,” McMahon said.
Both McMahon and Matt Millea, deputy county executive for physical services, say Onondaga County has already made a good faith move to proceed with the deal by stating its support for the deal at the press conference in August announcing the idea.
“It was a good faith move when the county executive and chairman of the Legislature stood up and said they supported the initiative and look forward to seeing the details fleshed out. It was a serious statement that they stand behind this proposal,” Millea said.
Millea said he expected there to be open discussion in both communities about the intermunicipal agreement once it is ready for review in the next few months.
“The issue is to have a working document put out for open comment and review and have open discussion in both communities in the next three or four months,” Millea said.
OCRRA Public Information Officer Kristen Lawton said the agency is still in the negotiation phase of the document so she could not provide a date for when it may be presented to each county.
Park said it is understandable that Onondaga will not vote to accept outside trash until it sees the particulars of the agreement.
He said Cortland County will also not be voting to change its local law until it hashes out the agreement, but he said undertaking the environmental studies was a necessity because they have to begin now.
“Because if anything comes back that shows this would not be good for this county environmentally, I’m not for it,” Park said. “But until we get all those answers I’m 95 percent confident this will be environmentally good for this county.”


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