Landfill expansion terms tightened
Published on 7/16/2009 by the Times Union written by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer
ALBANY -- The city will borrow for a significantly shorter period of time to fund the first phase of its controversial landfill expansion into the Pine Bush.
The largest of the bonding measures, a proposed $9 million bond for the first phase of the expansion, was reduced to $8 million to reflect lower than expected bids, and the term of most of the bond was reduced from 25 years to 15.
The change reflected concerns by some members that they were enabling the city to borrow for 25 years to expand a dump projected to only be able to accept garbage for another seven.
Three other bonds for equipment and consultant fees had their terms reduced between five and 10 years.
Councilman Dominick Calsolaro led a four-member faction that voted against all but one of the bonding ordinances, which collectively authorized borrowing up to $14.65 million expansion of the landfill, related restoration of the Pine Bush and other landfill expenses. Joining Calsolaro were Council members Corey Ellis, Catherine Fahey and Barbara Smith.
Supporters argued that the expansion is the only immediate way for Albany to avoid a garbage crisis come year's end.
But even the compromise, brokered between the Common Council and Mayor Jerry Jennings' administration, was not enough to appease its staunchest critics.
Even members of Save the Pine Bush, who have opposed the plan for environmental reasons, used fiscal arguments in trying to derail the agreement.
Included in the compromise was an agreement to review annually how the city pays for the required restoration of the Pine Bush, which could ultimately cost between $15 million and $18 million. The state Department of Conservation is requiring that the city to set aside $10 for every ton of garbage dumped to pay for the restoration work.
Calsolaro and Ellis dubbed plans to borrow for 30 years to pay the first $2.4 million of the restoration a "hidden garbage tax" that unfairly penalizes city taxpayers. He called instead for the city to add the extra $10 on the per-ton fee levied on private trash haulers, who account for most of the dumping.
Backers of the plan countered that raising the tipping fees could drive away business and push the cost back on the taxpayers anyway.
The compromise calls on the city to, in future years, look at alternatives for funding the restoration, including possibly raising tipping fees. Council President Pro Tempore Richard Conti, who helped broker the compromise, conceded it was imperfect -- but ultimately necessary.