County opts for private rather than public route on transfer stations

The Montgomery County Legislature voted Tuesday to support private operation of the county’s solid waste transfer stations once the three-county trash authority shuts down.

The Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority, known as MOSA, has been in operation since the mid-1980s. Otsego County passed legislation in September 2013 withdrawing from MOSA, the last of the three counties to do so. MOSA will be dissolved by April of this year.

County Executive Matthew Ossenfort negotiated a 10-year inter-municipal agreement with Fulton County allowing Montgomery County to transport its solid waste to the Mud Road Landfill at a tipping fee that is 12 percent higher than Fulton County haulers pay. That still would amount to about $38 a ton, he said.

The original resolution on Tuesday’s agenda called for supporting the public operation of the landfill and transfer stations once MOSA shut down. District 9 Legislator Alexander S. Kuchis proposed an amendment changing the word “public” to “private.” His amendment passed by a 5-4 vote. The amended resolution then passed by a 6-3 count.

Kuchis said he talked to several people before deciding what to do. He said the operation could be made public later on.

“County Executive] Matt Ossenfort and [MOSA Executive Director] Dennis Heaton were both in favor of privatizing this operation,” Kuchis said. “We have to start handling this May 1. I don’t think we should rush into this. I’m in favor of making this public if it works out.”

Negative votes on the amended resolution were cast by Roy Dimond of District 2, John M. Duchessi of District 6 and Thomas Quackenbush of District 1, chairman of the legislature. District 1 Legislator Martin P. Kelly voted against the amendment but in favor of the new resolution.

“It’s disappointing to see the support for privatization,” Duchessi said. “The outline from the county executive indicated that costs were about equal.”

Duchessi said going with a private firm presented some downsides, including the possibility that companies would intentionally submit a “lowball” bid at first.

“Companies are in business to make money,” he said. “We would be funding [another company’s] profit when we could do the work ourselves. What does it mean when we say we can’t provide this service? I don’t see the justification.”

Dimond reminded his fellow legislators of their campaign promises.

“You all said [when you ran for election] you wanted to create jobs,” he said. “By using public employees you’re doing that. Fulton County has a successful landfill and transfer stations, and they use their own employees.”

Ossenfort said after the meeting he was prepared to go ahead with whatever the legislature decided.

“Public and private operation] were both viable options,” he said. “It’s the first big decision by the legislature. I’m ready to implement it and move forward.”

He said at least one county employee would work at each transfer station, and a county employee will handle the accounting as well. He is hopeful the private company that runs the operation will interview current MOSA employees and give them “a fair shot.”

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.