Oswego County officials are mourning the loss of a colleague who gave more than four decades of public service to Oswego County residents.
Arthur Ospelt, District 12 legislator and vice chairman of the legislature, died Dec. 18.
Ospelt served in several leadership roles in town and county government. He is remembered as a strong and visionary leader who took great pride in the people and resources of Oswego County.
“His heart and soul were truly devoted to Oswego County,” said Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley. “Art truly was a larger than life presence in Oswego County. His knowledge of the county and his dedication to it was immeasurable. His accomplishments will continue to benefit our citizens for generations to come.”
Ospelt is best known for the development of Oswego County’s comprehensive solid waste management system.
When New York State began to close town dumps across the state, under Ospelt’s leadership, Oswego County took a proactive position and offered to implement a centralized county-owned solid waste system.
The county took over the locally operated Silk Road landfill from the municipalities of Fulton, Granby, Volney and Phoenix.
In 1975, the county opened the first solid waste transfer stations in Hastings, Pulaski and Oswego. All were located on active dumps that were closed by the county.
The county began the process of developing a new county landfill in 1976. Following a number of permit applications, public hearings, and lawsuits, the county was issued a construction permit and began building the Bristol Hill Landfill in Volney in 1982. The new state-of-the-art landfill opened in September 1983.
Having suffered through the sometimes painful trials and tribulations of siting the county’s first landfill, Ospelt quickly recognized the advantage of prolonging its projected life. It was this quest that led him to propose the construction of an Energy Recovery Facility in 1979.
The resource recovery facility was constructed on N.Y.S. Route 481 north of Fulton, and by late 1985, the facility was converting vast quantities of potential landfill materials into steam and electricity that could now be sold to third party users.
A few years later, under Ospelt’s leadership, Oswego County implemented one of the first voluntary recycling programs in New York State.
Soon after, the county began a feasibility study for a materials recovery facility to process and sell recyclable materials. Separate recycling drop-off centers were built at the Pulaski, Hastings and Oswego transfer stations. Mandatory recycling was enacted in 1992 and the Materials Recovery Facility opened for business the same year.
“Art’s efforts to minimize the amount of materials that go into the landfill have likely extended the potential life of the facility by as much as five times the original estimates,” said Beardsley. “As a result, Oswego County has received several awards and international recognition for the solid waste system and energy recovery facility, which will serve our residents for years to come.
“As county legislator, superintendent of Public Works, and as county administrator, Art always had the ability to see the big picture and look for the best solution for Oswego County residents,” continued Beardsley.
“He made sure that Oswego County roads were in excellent condition. Our snow removal programs are second-to-none, with the best crews and equipment anywhere. He was instrumental in the development and maintenance of the county airport and served for many years on the county industrial development agency board. He was a kind and caring person, with a great sense of humor that smoothed over many a debate on the floor of the legislature.”
Ospelt was first elected supervisor of the Town of Schroeppel, serving from 1970 to 1990. When the Board of Supervisors transitioned into the County Legislature, Ospelt served as chairman of the Legislature in 1976 and 1977.
He resigned as legislator in 1977 when he was appointed superintendent of highways and later superintendent of public works, a position he held until 1990.
In 1990, Ospelt was appointed Oswego County administrator, a position he held until his retirement in 1996. After a four-year retirement, he returned to his passion of serving the public and was elected legislator from District 12 in Pennellville, a position he served from 2000 until his death.