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Dan Hust | Democrat

Town of Bethel Assessor Marge Brown and her Town of Neversink counterpart, Gene Froehlich, follow the discussion during Tuesday’s Solid Waste Review Committee meeting.

Trash fee committee narrows ideas for 2011

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — March 12, 2010 — Solid Waste Review Committee members agreed on Tuesday that the 2011 alternative to 2010’s reviled solid waste user fee should be fair and easy to understand.
“The simplest approach is probably going to be the most pragmatic approach,” said Legislator Alan Sorensen.
The key question, asked County Manager David Fanslau, is whether the 2011 fee should be based on actual usage, property classification codes, simple availability, or access to the system.
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis said the county is now studying an across-the-board charge that would assess fees on every property parcel – vacant and improved, taxable and tax-exempt, residential and commercial – based on a number tied to the property’s assessed, equalized or full market value.
Neversink Supervisor Greg Goldstein wondered if residential properties could be separated from commercial due to the differences in waste generation, but Legislator David Sager pointed out that larger waste generators already pay more via hauling costs and tipping fees.
Other ideas included returning to a per-unit charge (i.e., 2,000 square feet constituting a unit, as originally proposed in a study last year), pursuing methane production for energy use (requests for proposals will be sent out later this month), and refining the current method of assessing fees based on property class codes.
Notably not discussed, however, was the Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority model, as last week’s speaker, legal counsel Teno West, had yet to provide additional statistics and paperwork to the committee.
Still, all these ideas have their own challenges, said county officials, especially the class codes.
Management Information Systems Director Lorne Green acknowledged that the database the county uses to assess the solid waste user fees is only “as accurate as what goes into the system.”
Some assessors, for example, include auxiliary uses when entering information into the database, while others simply list the required primary use. Also, some towns input buildings’ square footage amounts – others don’t.
And if the county does beef up its efforts to ensure detailed accuracy in the database, Green wasn’t sure who would take on the responsibility of keeping it regularly updated.
They’d certainly have to coordinate with the town assessors, who themselves weren’t sure how helpful they could be.
“My big dilemma is what kind of code am I going to put on the distillery,” Bethel Assessor Marge Brown wondered, referencing a future farm distillery coming to Route 17B in Bethel.
Its primary use will be as a distillery, she acknowledged, but it will also have a cafe and an apartment, all of which will generate varying amounts and types of trash.
And as for farms, Fanslau pointed out that the user fee can only be applied to the farmstead itself, not the rest of the farm’s acreage (unless it’s located outside of the currently defined agricultural districts).
Waste districting was again discussed, with officials pondering if they could supersede current municipal waste districts (like in Liberty) by saying the county’s district is a disposal district, not a collection district (which is what the municipalities’ districts are called).
In the end, committee members agreed to have county staff run numbers on assessing a fee on all 67,000 parcels in Sullivan County, based on those parcels’ assessed, equalized and full market value.
Whatever is chosen, County Attorney Sam Yasgur said the system would have to be “rationally related” to stand up to legal challenges – i.e., based on a rationally defensible assessment of fees.
The committee is next scheduled to meet this Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Government Center in Monticello. Meetings are open to the public.

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