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County considers mandating all trash be disposed locally

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — May 7, 2010 — The committee reviewing solid waste user fee alternatives may be moving toward a requirement that trash generated in the county be disposed in the county, as well.
On Tuesday, committee members and the public gathered at the Government Center in Monticello to listen to Teno West detail a draft report on potential options.
Contracted by the county to make such a report, West is the attorney for the Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority, and he recommended that Sullivan County institute its own authority.
He preferred that alternative – which comes with its own board, director, and independent abilities to assume debt and levy fees – over the creation of a disposal district managed directly by the county.
“I think the county has more flexibility on its own than as a district,” he remarked.
Committee members and county officials mostly agreed, but they also felt the county did not need to create an authority.
“We have enough government,” said Paul Walsh, who operates Thompson Sanitation. “We don’t need any more layers.”
“The problem is getting the [NYS] Legislature to create an authority in these times,” remarked County Attorney Sam Yasgur.
What seemed to generate the most consensus, however, was strengthening and enforcing the county’s current flow control law.
First put on the books nearly 20 years ago, the law mandates that all waste created in Sullivan County be disposed in Sullivan County. While never enforced, the law has now got the backing of the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently ruled in favor of several upstate counties with a similar law.
County Manager David Fanslau reminded the committee that the user fees would remain and thus have to be tweaked, but members were attracted to the notion of no state approval, no public votes, no time-consuming legislation, formation or construction – and the ability to assess user fees on tax-exempt and vacant parcels, helping increase the volume of trash processed and pay for current and future debt incurred by the now-closed landfill and the county’s other solid waste facilities.
“That’s a simpler way of doing business,” observed Legislator Ron Hiatt.
“But how are you going to mandate to ... somebody that you can’t take your garbage across the border?” asked Bethel Assessor Marge Brown.
She and Delaware Tax Collector/Town Clerk Tess McBeath agreed that – at least in western Sullivan County, where many ship their trash to nearby Pennsylvania – the public outrage over flow control might be severe.
Plus, said Legislator Alan Sorensen, the county must ensure that such a policy won’t make waste disposal costs more expensive for everybody – not just those who utilize out-of-county sites or haulers.
“I don’t think under any scenario it’s going to be cheaper for anybody,” replied Legislature Chair Jonathan Rouis. “We’re all the same taxpayer.… In the end, we’re all paying the bill.”
Yasgur, however, posed an interesting question, pertaining to how flow control could be enforced:
“Do you follow garbage trucks with police cars?”
No one answered, but West urged the committee to find an answer if they choose to go with flow control.
“You’re going to have to be committed to it,” he advised.
County Treasurer Ira Cohen advised against shutting out any option because it doesn’t currently seem feasible – he even advocated for reopening the landfill – but McBeath and others pointed out that 2011 is looming, and at least short-term choices must be faced.
No decisions were made this week, but West will be providing Rockland County’s user fee rate schedule for the committee’s use at its next meeting, scheduled for this Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Government Center. The meeting is open to the public and will likely feature a more detailed discussion about flow control.

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