Fulton County files lawsuit, Montgomery plans to counter-sue in landfill dispute

According to a complaint recently filed with the New York State Supreme Court, Fulton County is suing Montgomery County for at least $913,755 in an ongoing dispute over the terms of a contract between the two counties which regulates the transfer of solid waste from Montgomery County to the Fulton County Landfill. According to a statement released yesterday by Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort’s office, Mongtomery County will counter-sue Fulton County, seeking $2 million in damages. Both counties claim the other is responsible for breaching the contract and acting in bad faith.

The two counties entered into a ten-year contract in 2014 which allowed Montgomery County to transfer solid waste to the Fulton County Landfill. The agreement came as the former Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority (MOSA) was in the final stages of being dissolved. At the time, the agreement was praised by Montgomery County officials as the rate per ton was lower than what the county had been paying MOSA. Additionally, the county would be free of the guaranteed annual tonnage requirements and associated penalties imposed by MOSA.

In a press release issued in June, Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead announced that the Fulton County Board of Supervisors had terminated Montgomery County’s rights to deposit waste at the landfill, claiming that Montgomery County was collecting waste from other municipalities and transferring it to the landfill, charging a markup fee in the process. The release alleged that Montgomery County profited by nearly $2 million from the practice.

According to the complaint, Fulton County officials learned of the practice in September 2017 and notified Montgomery County that they considered the practice a violation of the contract. Fulton County invoked the dispute resolution in the contract in January 2018.

The complaint lists four causes of action, three relating to breach of contract, and one relating to unjust enrichment. The complaint seeks damages of $913,755 for two of the causes, and an amount to be determined by the court for the other two causes.

In Ossenfort’s counter-suit statement, he states that Montgomery County has documentation showing that the transfer of outside waste was allowed under the contract and that Fulton County acted in bad faith by terminating the contract abruptly in June, giving only 48 hours notice.

“It’s a shame that Fulton County was not willing to renegotiate the current contract, but rather abruptly end the relationship without any meaningful negotiation,” Ossenfort wrote.

The statement alleges that Fulton County’s motivation for terminating the contract was financial in nature:

During the course of the contract, market conditions for waste disposal and Fulton County’s needs changed, costs for disposal skyrocketed and Fulton County realized they negotiated a bad deal with Montgomery County. They wanted out so they could contract with a higher paying vendor. This coincided with the year Fulton County needed to override their tax cap and was seeking ways to bring in additional funds. Despite this, Montgomery County acted in good faith and attempted to work with Fulton County in a cooperative manner.

When reached for comment today, Ossenfort said that Montgomery County is now transferring its solid waste to Seneca Meadows Landfill in Waterloo, NY. He said the $2 million in damages being sought reflects the increase in tipping fees the county will be paying to Seneca Meadows Landfill compared to the amount that would have been paid to use the Fulton County Landfill over the next six years of the contract.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.