The waste picture becomes clearer
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Soon, Sullivan County residents and businesses could be paying a uniform user fee to dump their trash and there might not be any expansion to the county landfill in Monticello.
That’s two of several ideas legislators are now reviewing in a report issued this week by County Manager David Fanslau detailing findings and recommendations for the future handling of solid waste throughout the county.
Compiled by those who oversee both the county budget and landfill, the report features 12 options for consideration, most of which are interconnected.
Fanslau said yesterday he hopes legislators choose a path that includes a third of the waste stream going to a county-run composting facility, another third being recycled through an expanded materials recovery facility (MRF) on county property, and the final third being shipped out for burial in someone else’s landfill.
What will happen is up to legislators, who are expected to discuss their options at this Tuesday’s Public Works Committee meeting (open to the public) at 10:30 a.m. inside the Government Center in Monticello.
Fanslau is hoping for an answer by April, as the landfill is about 15 months from reaching capacity, and even if the state approves an expansion, it will be 18-24 months after that approval before waste can be deposited into the controversial Phase II cells.
Plus, $40 million worth of debt on Phase I must be paid off after it closes, and the county has been losing money for years on the landfill.
“Importation provided a cash flow, but it was a false sense of security,” said Fanslau yesterday, noting that money wasn’t used to pay down debt. “Our intention is to not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
1. Take the solid waste system’s revenues and expenses out of the county’s general fund and put them into an enterprise fund dedicated to properly managing those specific finances.
“The future solid waste system should neither be a cash cow for the county, nor should it be a fiscal burden on the county’s property tax levy,” Fanslau writes in the report.
2. Make the solid waste system self-sufficient, avoiding the current $3.4 million subsidy from the general fund, accounting for about seven percent of the countywide tax levy.
“The solid waste system should become a closed system that processes solid waste and recyclables that are generated within Sullivan County,” Fanslau writes.
3. User fees should be created for all property parcels that could potentially generate solid waste. This would include tax-exempt parcels but would have a fee structure based on the properties’ uses.
Fanslau is recommending legislators consider annually charging:
• $182 for residential properties
• $364 for two-family residences
• $546 for three-family homes
• $600 for small commercial establishments
• $1,200 for medium commercial operations
• $1,800 for large commercial outfits
Though construction and demolition debris would continue to be charged a tipping fee, the new user fees alone could generate more than $10 million in the first year, said Fanslau.
Recyclables would continue to be accepted for free, though the county’s 17-year-old mandatory recycling law would be more rigorously enforced.
4. A Division of Solid Waste and Recycling should be created, with its own staff and commissioner.
Currently, the Division of Public Works (DPW) oversees the solid waste system, in addition to highways, parks, buildings and grounds, the county’s vehicle fleet and the airport. Fanslau and staff feel a division dedicated just to the solid waste needs of the county would improve efficiencies and save money.
5. Legislators should create “disposal districts.”
Fanslau is currently proposing four such districts, covering individual portions of the county. A method of identifying users who have paid the appropriate fees would be developed, and thus no fees would be charged or coupons needed when visiting transfer stations or the landfill.
No importation of out-of-county trash would be permitted, as the revenues raised would have to cover the entire operation costs.
6. Should the disposal district concept prove successful, the county should then offer weekly collection services (offered on a different day for each district).
The county would contract with private haulers via competitive bids, with each district bid out separately.
7. Satisfying the county’s “green vision,” a co-composting/dual stream materials recovery facility (MRF) should be built and run by the county to turn organic waste into reusable materials.
The idea stems from a trip last year by county officials to such a facility in neighboring Delaware County, which has achieved a 70 percent recovery rate. Fanslau has set a target operational date of 18-24 months after approval from the Legislature.
8. Legislators should discuss whether to export whatever waste cannot be recycled/composted or to actually build the Phase II expansion to maintain control over the entire solid waste system.
Fanslau and crew recommend exportation rather than expansion.
9. Importation of waste should not be considered due to market conditions, and Phase II’s projected 40-year life through traditional landfilling would be greatly shortened.
10. A transfer station could be constructed at the landfill in Monticello to facilitate the exportation of whatever waste isn’t recycled or composted.
However, Fanslau cautions that the county’s carbon footprint could rise substantially if more of its trash is exported than recycled/composted.
11. Special funding could and should be obtained to halve the projected interest rate on the bonding required to build a co-composting facility.
12. If none of the above recommendations are accepted by legislators, the county’s solid waste system will have to devolve, said Fanslau.
Taxes will have to rise more than five percent to cover the debt service after the landfill’s closure, and personnel will have to be laid off and operating hours reduced while a long-term plan for dealing with the county’s waste is reimagined.
The solid waste report will be posted on the county’s website, www.co.sullivan.ny.us, after legislators discuss it on Tuesday.