Dominick Calsolaro

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Trash hauler says it would pay Albany more, if competitor agrees

Published on 5/12/2010 by the Times Union written by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer


ALBANY -- As city lawmakers continue to push for an increase in the fee paid by private trash haulers that use the Rapp Road landfill, an official with one of those haulers, County Waste and Recycling, said today his company has offered to pay more.
Jerry Cifor, a principal with Clifton Park-based County Waste, said his firm has twice in the last 18 months offered to increase its tipping fee -- if, and only if, Allied Waste, one of his competitors, would agree.

Allied, which is owned by Arizona-based Republic Services, has twice declined, Cifor said.

Both County Waste and Allied Waste promise the city at least 300 tons of trash every day in return for the reduced tipping fee of $47.67 per ton.

The arrangement guarantees the city a steady flow of income it needs to help sustain basic services.

But for the last two months, the council has been embroiled in a debate over whether the city should increase its tipping fee, or impose a surcharge on top of it, in order to help fund an $18 million restoration of Pine Bush habitat required by state environmental regulators in return for permission to expand the landfill.

In granting permission for the expansion last June, the Department of Environmental Conservation required the city to set aside a $10-per-ton Pine Bush habitat restoration fee but did not say how the city should do it.

Albany -- amid protest from some council members who said it unfairly saddled city taxpayers with the full cost of the restoration -- opted to bond the expense.

Some council members instead are pushing for the fee to be added on top of the tipping fee, which they say would more fairly distribute the expense across all the users of the facility.

Mayor Jerry Jennings' administration, however, has warned the council that raising the tip fee or imposing a surcharge could prompt Allied and County Waste to take their business elsewhere, creating a disastrous multimillion-dollar revenue shortfall for the city.

On Monday, the council appeared to reach a compromise that would secure enough votes to pass the bonding, a non-binding resolution that calls on the city to take a harder line in its negotiations with the private haulers.

But at least two council members, Anton Konev and Dominick Calsolaro, say they want something stronger -- an ordinance that will put the surcharge into city code.

"It's good that we put stuff in writing, but it doesn't hold any weight," Calsolaro, a strong opponent of both the expansion and bonding, said of the resolution.

While Cifor said he's already paying several dollars more per ton in Albany than it costs him to ship his trash to western New York, he added that he's willing to pay the city the same rate he pays the town of Colonie, $52.50 per-ton.

"We would have no problem paying both municipal landfills the same rate," Cifor said.

A spokesperson for Allied was not immediately available for comment.

There is also likely a fair amount of business politics involved in the offer -- as County Waste, Allied Waste and Waste Management, which does not use the city landfill, all jockey for market share.

Meanwhile, the city just this month extended the $47.67 rate for another six months, fearful that if it issued a new RFP the bids might come in at a lower rate, officials said.

The 15-member council has twice defeated one landfill borrowing measure in the last two months -- prompting the withdrawal of three others -- and since then council leadership has been scrambling to muster enough votes.

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com.