By Debra J. Groom
The proposal to close four of five transfer stations in Oswego County has become quite the heated topic.
A new committee has been formed to come up with ways to possibly keep the transfer stations open. A petition against the closure is making the rounds on Facebook. Letters to the editor are coming into newspaper offices. Residents are discussing the issue on social media.
“Everything’s open — everything’s on the table,” county legislature Chairman Kevin Gardner, R-New Haven, said at the start of the first meeting Tuesday of the Transfer Station Advisory Committee.
“We want you to come up with ideas to go on to the (legislature’s) Infrastructure and Facilities committee. I’m looking for options and ideas,” he said.
The Transfer Station Advisory Committee was born out of the May 28 meeting of the Oswego County Town Supervisors Association. The supervisors discussed the legislature’s proposal about the transfer stations and said more research needed to be done on the issue.
A closure plan written by county officials was distributed to the legislature’s Infrastructure and Facilities committee May 27 outlining how the four transfer stations could be closed.
Frank Visser, director of the Solid Waste department for the county, said closing the stations — two at the end of 2014 and two at the end of 2015 — would save the county about $500,000 a year.
But the Transfer Station Advisory Committee, meeting for the first time Tuesday night, believes more work should be done. They believe a lot of information is missing from the closure plan and they need this information before deciding if the closures are a good idea or a bad idea.
“We need as much effort to try to keep them open,” said Hannibal Mayor Fred Kent. “I haven’t seen that paper (being done).”
Committee members were told that in all, the solid waste department is running in the black. But of the three parts of solid waste — the Energy Recovery Center, the landfill and the transfer stations — the transfer stations are losing money.
The county needs to expand the landfill at Bristol Hill next year to the tune of $3.5 million.
“We did not have enough surplus (in the Solid Waste department) to pay for this,” Visser told the committee members.
The county tried to make the transfer stations more self-sufficient by raising rates for the yearly stickers residents buy to bring their garbage to the stations.
But the higher rates resulted in fewer people buying stickers, so the county did not make more money.
“The transfer stations are underperforming and it is a drain on the system,” said County Administrator Philip Church.
A number of issues came up during the advisory committee meeting. They are:
Raising fees for the commercial haulers. Kern Yerdon, Richland deputy supervisor and councilman, said commercial haulers — which are for-profit businesses — often pay less than individuals and their rates should be looked at. “Let’s see what kind of revenue that brings in,” he said.
Sorting metal and selling the valuable metals at a going rate.
Changing the employee work schedule at the transfer stations. Instead of paying workers overtime for Saturdays, have them work four 10-hour days with one of the regular work days being Saturday.
Improving recycling in the county.
Looking at privatization of the transfer stations with a company such as Waste Management.
Seeing if the county can accept trash from other counties to bring in more revenue.
Seeing if the county can harvest the methane from the landfill to use for energy that can be sold.
Reviewing what the traffic situation would be at the Bristol Hill transfer station in Volney (the one to remain open). Would this be a disaster for residents who would have to drive to Volney from throughout the county and wait in line to dispose of their trash?
Reviewing what the cost would be for communities to begin municipal pickup of trash.
The committee, consisting of town supervisors and/or council people from Richland, Orwell and Palermo, the mayors of Central Square and Hannibal and two county legislators, asked for more data from Church. The committee plans to meet again at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 26.
Originally, the legislature’s Infrastructure, Facilities and Technology Committee was going to discuss the closure plan again at the end of June and possibly make a recommendation to Personnel and Finance and the full Legislature.
But Transfer Station Advisory Committee members said they would meet at the end of June and two times in July, so it looks as though the legislature will not be making a decision on the transfer stations until at least August or later.