The future of trash County is going the private route


FONDA -- Come May, a private entity will assume control of Montgomery County's solid waste transfer stations.

The county Legislature voted 6-3 Tuesday night in favor of a private entity following an amended resolution and a brief debate at the regular board meeting.

Chairman and District 2 Legislator Thomas L. Quacken-bush, District 3 Legislator Roy S. Dimond, and District 6 Legislator John M. Duchessi voted against the decision.

Duchessi said there are downsides to having a private company hauling the waste, citing "low-ball bids" which would result in a fee increase once the company is hired, and promoting private business over county employees.

"We would be using Mont-gomery County tax dollars to fund profit for a private business when we could be doing that work ourselves and having our own employees," he said. "What does it mean when we say the county can't provide this service, that Montgomery County employees can't do this?"

Dimond said the county legislature is going back on its campaign promises to promote jobs.

"When I look at the numbers with the county doing it, I see a saving of $3 million over 10 years. This is $3 million we are losing," he said. "I see all the money heading west rather than staying in the county."

District 7 Legislator Barbara Wheeler disagreed, saying the government doesn't belong in the garbage business and doing so would promote a growing government.

"It would be creating a dynasty and I would not support a growing government," she said. "This is the wisest thing we can do. We were presented with options and we have to do the best with a bad situation."

District 9 Legislator Alexander Kuchis said that after considering the facts, having a private entity handle the operations at this point might be easier. He said there was not enough time for the county to become operational.

"I am in favor of bringing the public eventually but not right now," Kuchis said.

District 8 Legislator Joseph Isabel echoed Kuchis and Wheeler.

"There is nothing that says we have to be locked into it for eternity," Isabel said.

Quackenbush and District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly remained silent during the debate but afterward said they could see both sides.

"It's really hard to juggle in such a short amount of time the way you should go. It was difficult to speak against something because it was making sense," Quackenbush said.

Quackenbush said he was against losing jobs to a private company but it was easier for the county to change from a private to a public entity in the future than vice versa.

Kelly had voiced two different votes during the meeting. He voted against the motion to change the resolution from a public to a private entity but then voted in favor of the amended resolution following the debate.

"It was very tough situation and I feel that at the end of the day, we shouldn't rush into something," Kelly said adding that he hopes the company hired would consider keeping the employees that currently operate the transfer stations.

"I hope that the company that takes the bid will look at who is employed at the transfer stations and consider hiring them so they can keep their jobs."

County Executive Matthew Ossenfort, who sat in the audience during the meeting, said afterward he was satisfied a decision was made.

"I am happy that we are sticking to a timeline. We need to be ready by May 1," he said.

According to Ossenfort, the cost of private vs. public would have been almost the same.

"With both options, we were able to keep the tipping fee at or slightly below what the current tipping fee is, which is $71 per ton," he said, adding that the county has averaged around 40,000 tons of trash in the past five years.

The legislature also voted in favor of an inter-municipal agreement to assume control of the post-closure work in the three counties where landfills need to be monitored and maintained after the Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority is dissolved.

The county is expected to see a savings of approximately $230 million, according to Ossenfort.

It would be the second agreement the county would enter. The county has already entered an inter-municipal agreement with Fulton County to haul waste to the Mud Road landfill.

Ossenfort said the county has already done the leg work in getting bids from the private sector for the transfer stations and plans to hire Gotta Do Contracting, LLC.

Even though it will be a private entity handing the operation, Ossenfort considers it a private-public partnership.

"We are going to have a county employee at each transfer station as well as county employees doing a lot of the accounting, billing and that type of work," Ossenfort said. "It's a hybrid."