The town of Colonie voted to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a Landfill Operating Agreement with a 6-1 vote on Thursday, Jan. 20, but not without some contention.
Before the Town Board in Colonie had a chance to vote on the resolution, a Latham resident used his public comment time to suggest two options for the landfill he felt were important that the town had not considered.
The RFP, which would allow the town to partner with a private company in operating the town’s landfill, left Ken Champagne wondering why they had not looked into two alternatives he felt would benefit Colonie.
One of them was the idea of using flow control, which would have all the trash in the town going to the landfill through private haulers. He said it would allow the landfill to receive enough trash to stay at full capacity.
Division of Public Works Commissioner Jack Cunningham said that would essentially create another tax for residents, which he said is something the town is trying to avoid.
What we’re trying to do is raise revenues without raising taxes, he said. `So, we’re looking at this asset to see if we can leverage it using the free-market system to maximize our return.`
Councilman Dan Hornick, a member of the Landfill Exploratory Committee, agreed with Cunningham and said he didn’t think that would be utilizing the landfill for its original intent.
`We want to maximize the value of the landfill and keep it as an asset to the taxpayers,` he said. `Not have the taxpayers supporting the landfill.`
Another one of Champagne’s suggestions was to create a transfer station and send the waste out to a location in possibly Western New York through either a rail line or other forms of transportation.
`I find it difficult that this type of operation with a private company will yield the results this town needs,` he said. `It’s going to be very difficult to produce enough income to take care of the current debt load.`
Cunningham said this was actually an option that was suggested to him, which he revealed in September 2010 during a presentation of the findings of the Landfill Exploratory Committee. He said some collection companies said they could move waste from the landfill to regions out in Western New York for a cheaper price than using the landfill.
It would be the exact opposite of what the town is trying to accomplish, Cunningham said, because it would end up shutting down the landfill and stopping any operation at the facility.
`You go to a transfer station when your landfill is full and you can’t use it anymore,` he said. `But this thing is fully operating and to go to a transfer station would be counterproductive.`
Councilman Bob Becker pointed out before his vote that this is only a resolution to issue a request for proposal and nothing in this legislation is meant to be a final decision on a specific private partnership agreement.
`As one of the options, we have the option to completely reject all proposals,` he said.
To explain his vote against the resolution, Councilman Dan Dustin said the RFP `affects all residents` and said he had not received the info from the proposal until 6 p.m., at the agenda review session before the town board meeting.
This comment drew a befuddled look from Supervisor Paula Mahan and a smirk on Hornick’s face.
`To gain money upfront today puts us all at risk in the future,` he said. `I really hope that the town and the town residents are going to have the ability to provide significant input once the RFP goes out.`
Hornick said that all of this information was presented and identified to them during the session before the board meeting and said that Dustin did not have any questions on the final RFP then. He did admit, however, that there were some minor tweaks made since the draft RFP.
`He’ll make the statements he needs to make,` he said. `I’ll admit that I was a little baffled.`
Hornick was pleased that Champagne wanted to have a debate on the policies and said that it brought about a pleasant discussion amongst the board and him.
`I respect that he’s putting policy ideas on the table but I disagree with the policy ideas,` he said. `But this is what government should be.`
Now that the RFP is going to be sent out, Hornick is excited with anticipation to see what it will lead to and maybe what sort of responses they will receive. He added that everything their doing is trying to maximize and asset the town and benefit its residents.
`I’m excited about the potential this RFP represents,` he said. `I’m excited to see what companies are thinking.“