Dan Hust | Democrat
Shirley Felder, owner of Sullivan First Refuse and Recycling, talks to legislators Thursday about her concerns with the proposed solid waste user fee.
Legislature puts off waste fee talk
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO County legislators held off on a vote Thursday to enact a proposed solid waste user fee.
The fee would be assessed on every piece of non-vacant property in the county and would replace tipping and per-bag fees at the county landfill and its transfer stations.
With the landfill’s useful life now curtailed to the end of this December, exportation of trash will soon become the norm.
And to finance that expense plus millions in remaining landfill debt county officials, a Solid Waste Task Force and a consulting firm came up with a user fee that starts at $90 a year for seasonal homes and $180 a year for year-round residences.
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis on Thursday estimated his his own family’s disposal costs might drop by $6 a month, but legislators ran into deep opposition from the public at a midday hearing.
In fact, concerns came so fast and furiously that legislators agreed to table the matter until this Thursday for further review. They’ll meet in public session at 9 a.m. inside the Government Center in Monticello.
Legislator Alan Sorensen was the first one on Thursday to question the accuracy of calculations regarding nearly 5,000 “non-residential” parcels, some of which are a mix of offices and apartments.
He also was not convinced that the new system would result in savings for many businesses, noting that his own calculations indicated the Rock Hill Trading Post would annually pay almost twice as much as originally calculated.
Plus, there’s an incentive not to recycle, he said in a comment that was repeated by others later in the day.
“There is just an inordinate number of loose ends that need to be tied up,” he observed.
But, said other legislators, they need to be tied up quickly.
“We’re standing in the middle of the convergence of two railroad tracks,” remarked Legislature Vice Chair Ron Hiatt, likening the budget and the waste issue to two freight trains barrelling towards the county. “Our immediate problem is this first freight train, and that’s the budget.”
Hiatt said the current hole in the budget for 2010 hovers somewhere between $8-$12 million and officials are scrambling to make up that deficit.
If the solid waste user fee is held off, he warned, another $4 million could be added to that gap.
As County Treasurer Ira Cohen put it, “I look at this as an emergency revenue-raising measure. I think we have to go forward with something other than a massive tax increase in 2010.”
Cohen and Hiatt felt that changes to the fee system could be worked out later, but Sorensen was joined in his concerns by Legislator David Sager, who reminded his counterparts that “we’ll come back to it” has too often translated into “we’ll never get back to it.”
Sager and Sorensen ended up being the only “no” votes on the resolution required to bring it to the floor at the full Legislature meeting later that day.
The later gathering featured even more voices of concern, with