Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Niagara County’s blue collar employee union and a Democratic lawmaker joined forces Monday to question the possible early shutdown of an active construction and demolition landfill.
On the strength of a rumor suggesting County Manager Jeffrey Glatz is pushing for layoffs in the county refuse district, AFSCME Local 182 members packed a Monday meeting of the refuse district board. On the meeting agenda was a presentation by Christopher Burns, vice president of CHA Consulting Inc., on the “options” for closing the county-run C&D landfill on the Lockport Bypass.
The refuse district, an entity that’s technically separate from Niagara County, paid CHA $7,500 for an engineering analysis of steps involved in closing the landfill immediately — although it has permitted capacity to accept C&D refuse for several more years.
According to Refuse District Director Richard Pope, the C&D landfill makes money for the county — about $228,000 a year, from the tipping fee charged to dumpers — and helps offset the approximately $900,000 a year cost of monitoring three closed landfills in Lockport and North Tonawanda.
The county refuse tax levy equals operations and maintenance costs, minus C&D revenue.
In other words, Pope said, without the C&D revenue, the refuse tax would be higher.
The levy and rate would be higher still once the C&D landfill was closed, since state-mandated monitoring costs about $300,000 a year per landfill — and the district would no longer be bringing in any income to offset the expense of watching over four landfills, he observed.
Burns outlined several options for closing the C&D landfill early, meaning before it’s filled to permitted capacity. One option, taking enough waste to fill it to grade, would take a little over a year, during which the landfill would continue making money. Another option, moving existing waste around to fill shallow spots and flatten the landfill to acceptable grades, could be done more quickly but would cost about $100,000. Capping the landfill after grading would cost in excess of $1 million in either case, Burns said.
Legislator Jason Zona, D-Niagara Falls, a member of the refuse district board, objected angrily to the report because CHA’s hiring hadn’t been OK’d by the board beforehand. Pope said board chairman John Syracuse, R-Newfane, signed off on the hiring; and Syracuse in turn said he did so for Glatz, who complained he’d been asking for an estimate of landfill closing costs for months and hadn’t gotten cooperation from Pope.
By the terms of the county’s landfill operating permit, Burns said, the C&D landfill can grow another 50 feet in height before it’s full. Such “air space is gold” in the private sector, he said, considering the fact it can take landfill operators up to 15 years to get needed permits from the state.
Zona said it would make no sense for the county to cut off a refuse revenue source prematurely, and he questioned Glatz’s real motive for exploring the idea. He and Bill Rutland, president of AFSCME Local 182, jointly charged Glatz is laying the groundwork for landfill closing next year in order to justify layoffs in the eight-employee refuse district. “Two” is the rumored number that brought AFSCME members to the meeting.
“There is no reason at all to close this (landfill); you don’t lay off where something makes a profit,” Zona said.
Glatz insisted he’s simply gathering needed information for the future — and said he’s “not inclined to” write C&D landfill operation out of the 2013 county budget.
“We know at some point it has to close,” he said. “The point of (the CHA report) was to learn about the cost of closing ... which, when that happens, will have to be budgeted.”
Legislator Peter Smolinski, R-North Tonawanda, suggested the C&D landfill is used by hundreds of local small businesses that find it a closer and more convenient alternative than the next-closest C&D landfills in the county, Modern in Lewiston and BFI in Niagara Falls. Because lines at those private landfills reportedly are so long, county landfill users likely would keep coming back even if the per-ton tipping fee, currently $64, was hiked, he said.