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Kathy Daley | Democrat

Judy Van Keuren lives across Route 52 from the Jim Hughson compound of businesses.

Neighbors thrash businessman’s trash plans

By Kathy Daley
JEFFERSONVILLE — December 7, 2010 — In what some might regard as a minor victory, two neighbors across the road from Jim Hughson’s Route 52 garbage and excavating businesses are now witnessing a welcome tidying up of his site — but they are holding their breath as to what happens next.
“I must say that he has already cleaned up some of the junk – the broken down vehicles and machinery parts,” said Judy Van Keuren, who has a bird’s eye view of the doings at J. Hughson Excavating and Jeff Sanitation.
Van Keuren, a former registered nurse, and neighbor Mariah Graham, an illustrator and professor at Fordham University, are protesting Hughson’s plan to gain official status as a private garbage transfer station similar to those operated by Sullivan County in Ferndale and Cochecton.
Noting that they are the most visible figures among neighbors who believe Hughson is now overreaching, Graham and Van Keuren have diligently turned up at Town of Delaware Planning Board meetings for months. They are in frequent contact with officials at the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the state Attorney General’s office as part of an attempt to keep Hughson in check.
“We don’t want to shut down his business,” said Graham. ““He hires a lot of nice young men, and everyone needs work. But we want no more expansion on this site. And we want to see the site cleaned up. We want our environment to be clean and safe.”
Hughson, himself a key player in the Jeffersonville area and beyond, is taken aback by this flurry of activity against him. “I find it perturbing,” he said in an interview in his office.
Meanwhile, the DEC, which must grant a permit for Hughson to go ahead with a transfer station, said last week that his application is incomplete.
“We need more information about the proposed project before we can permit it,” said DEC spokesperson Wendy Rosenbach. “We are awaiting more information from Mr. Hughson.”
Once the permit is approved, the Town of Delaware will decide whether or not to okay his specific plans, said Supervisor Jim Scheutzow.
In addition, the town must grant Hughson a building permit in order to construct a DEC-required two-story, 88 by 100 foot metal building to house the trash operation.
Historical town dump
The Hughson property extends along the edge of Route 52 – some say as a welcome example of thriving industry, others as an eyesore – just outside the village of Jeffersonville.
Hughson has owned the 80 plus acres since 1987. Before him, the property was run as a “town” dump by other owners. The site is now home to excavating and garbage companies, the latter a business that picks up household and commercial trash for a monthly fee. Hughson also grazes 85 head of beef cattle at the back of his now-closed F&D Landfill.
In total, Hughson employs 25 people, making him one of the significant employers in the area. But he is also known for his hard work and community spirit.
Hughson is called upon to plow snow, fix streambeds after flooding, and demolish old buildings throughout the area.
“Jim is the first one I call when we’re facing flood situations — he jumps right on it, and I can totally rely on him,” said Delaware Supervisor Jim Scheutzow. “Of course he’s paid for it, but he also does a lot of good things, like donating time to the Briscoe Dam situation.”
Jeffersonville Mayor Ed Justus said Hughson built the ball fields in the village for free. “He frequently donates time and machinery for community projects,” Justus said.
Regardless of their collegial relationship with Jim Hughson, Town of Delaware officials say they are aware of both the volatility of his transfer station proposal and the visual impact of his property.
Building Inspector Howard Fuchs said that, over the past few weeks and spurred on by the town, Hughson has been organizing and moving equipment and machinery and truck parts that “don’t apply to either of his businesses.”
“A lot of what is there are parts that he uses for his businesses and that he has stockpiled,” Fuchs said. “The rest is junk material that he’s (now) getting rid of.”
WANT CONTROLS on his operations
A clean-up is all well and good, say neighbors Van Keuren and Graham. But what controls will be placed on the land and the operation when and if Hughson receives approvals for his official transfer station?
Like the county-run transfer stations in Ferndale and Cochecton, Hughson would collect garbage, bring it back to the site and dump it on the floor inside the new building. The garbage would then be separated into categories and transferred into large trailers. When the trailers are full, they would be hauled to waste sites elsewhere.
Graham and Van Keuren maintain this is already what Hughson is doing, and they don’t want more of it. “He has a full-blown transfer station there now,” said Van Keuren, saying there are issues involving noise, rodents and tractor trailer traffic.
For his part, Hughson said he preferred not to specify how he is currently handling garbage, pending permit approval from the DEC.
Wendy Rosenbach of the DEC says Hughson currently “has no authority to handle solid waste (including recyclables) at his site.”
One of the fears of the neighbors is a vast expansion of trash activity. Planning Board Chairman Gerald Eucker responds that Hughson’s permit application allows for his continuing to deal only with the garbage business he has now “and normal expansion of the area he is now serving.”
In a philosophical moment in his office, Hughson mused recently, “What are people supposed to do with their garbage? Everybody wants to get rid of it but no one wants it in their back yard — or their front yard.”
And the two Route 52 homeowners, Graham and Van Keuren, point out that Hughson himself doesn’t live near his property. “Maybe he wants to move his transfer station to his own home?” said Van Keuren.

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