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Waste fee solutions in sight

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — April 13, 2010 — Based on last Tuesday’s meeting, the county’s Solid Waste Review Committee seems to be moving away from instituting a solid waste authority akin to Rockland County’s.
“I still feel that we should keep this as simple as possible,” noted Delaware Town Clerk/Tax Collector Tess McBeath.
But the committee also agreed it needs guidance from Teno West, the attorney for Rockland County’s waste authority and recently contracted to provide legal advice to the committee.
He’s promised to have a report to the committee at its May 4 meeting.
In the meantime, committee members continued to wrestle with the sticky issues that inevitably arise for every alternative to the current (and unpopular) solid waste user fee.
County Attorney Sam Yasgur provided a short list of pros and cons for the most viable options (with tipping and per-bag fees staying the same as they are now):
• Supporting the solid waste system by property taxes: pros include simplicity and no need for state approval or legislation; cons include a significant tax increase and the lack of ability to include tax-exempt properties.
• Solid waste user fee (the current method): pros include no need for state approval or legislation, the inclusion of tax-exempts, and the ability to make it a real property lien; cons include the need for a new database, the ability of non-users to appeal their way out of the system, and the possibility of being unable to charge for vacant land.
• Disposal district: pros include the ability to charge an “access” fee on an ad-valorem basis and no need for a new database; cons include a lengthy and complicated creation process, limitations on non-refuse-generating portions of agricultural properties, burdensome state requirements, conflicts with similar existing districts within the county, and the likely inability to pay for old debt incurred by the landfill years ago.
• Resource Recovery Agency (RRA): pros include existing, state-approved models to follow, independent authority to borrow and enter into contracts, ability to put liens on real property, and inclusion of tax-exempts; cons include needed state legislation and a new database, more administrative and overhead costs, and strict state reporting requirements.
• State-created authority other than RRA: pros include existing, state-approved models to follow and the ability of the state to give the authority whatever powers it desires; cons include the need for a new database and state legislation, a reluctance in Albany to do such, more administrative and overhead costs, and strict state reporting requirements.
Yasgur felt the real question is how to get everyone to pay for the system, especially the landfill’s $36 million in past debt.
The committee briefly considered simply assessing $100 more in taxes per year to pay off that debt in the next five years, but Neversink Assessor Gene Froehlich doubted many county residents could afford such.
In the end, the committee agreed to have West research the district and access fee ideas, while the Chamber of Commerce – which has its own committee on this matter – will explore a charge-per-unit method.
Rock Hill real estate agent Jody Tedaldi and Callicoon restaurateur Bob DeCristofaro liked the per-unit idea.
“You have to spread the pain,” Tedaldi urged.
The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 20 at 8:30 a.m. at the Government Center in Monticello. As always, it is open to the public.

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