Dominick Calsolaro

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Expand and Borrow

The Albany Common Council approves bond issue to fund proposed landfill expansion

Published by Metroland

“I will bet you $1,000 this is the last expansion there,” said Albany Common Councilman Michael O’Brien (Ward 12), regarding the recently approved $7 million bond issue approved by the Common Council this week to expand the city’s Rapp Road landfill for the fifth time. “There is no more place to go,” continued O’Brien, “and we and the state have enough time to come up with an economically viable alternative.”

Three other council members, Barbara Smith (Ward 4), Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1) and Corey Ellis (Ward 3), were not willing to take that chance, and voted against the bond issue.

As Ellis pointed out, the last time an expansion of the landfill was before the council, the city had promised the fourth expansion would be the last.

Opposition to the bill by the three council members led to debate on the floor of the council. Calsolaro insisted that the city has already seen its debt payments nearly double in the last three years from $9 million to $16 million, and that the city has not taken his recommendation and put together an honest estimate of what it costs to run the landfill.

Calsolaro said that while city officials cite the landfill as generating $13 million in revenue for the city each year, he thinks that the cost to operate the landfill, the legal fees surrounding it, and the cost of purchasing an alternative landfill site in Coeymans may significantly eat into what the city truly earns. Calsolaro referred to the bond issue as “a sad state for Albany taxpayers.”

O’Brien said he respected the three council members’ opposition to the bond issue, but thought it to be mostly symbolic. “Their opposition forces us all to think, and justify why we are taking what you might even call a desperate step that is not the best long-term solution, but right now a necessary solution.”

O’Brien insisted that the state and federal government need to catch up with policies that reflect environmental priorities. O’Brien said that, under the administration of former Gov. George Pataki, the DEC Web site emphasized landfills as a solution to regional waste problems, but that things changed under the Spitzer administration. “The Web site now preaches recycling,” he said, “but that ain’t gonna happen until the government starts assisting localities to mandate a lot of policy changes, and to enable regional solid-waste processing. That’s going to be the answer. We aren’t there yet and, by sheer force of necessity, we are forced to go with the second best solution, a fifth landfill expansion.”

The council unanimously approved a $1.7 million plan to restore part of the Pine Bush Preserve. But as O’Brien pointed out, “It ain’t gonna happen unless there is an expansion.”

—David King, May 22, 2008