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Saratoga County supervisors OK Finch Paper’s purchase of landfill

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
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— Finch Paper’s purchase of the unused Saratoga County landfill was approved overwhelmingly Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors.

The measure passed 20-1 at a meeting in Ballston Spa. Supervisor Patti Southworth, I-Ballston, cast the only opposing vote.

Supervisor Bill Peck, R-Northumberland, in whose town the landfill is located, voted in favor after having helped negotiate the deal. “It would have been nice to sit on the sideline and just yell ‘no,’ but I didn’t think that was good government,” he said.

The Northumberland Town Board voted in favor of the Finch proposal, which includes up to $200,000 in annual payments to the town and revenue-sharing payments to every municipality in the county.

The sale of the 23-acre landfill will provide the county and its towns with new revenue, officials said, as well as providing the Glens Falls paper mill — which has nearly 700 employees — with a long-term place to dump its paper manufacturing sludge.

Using the landfill for sludge will require approval by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and it isn’t yet clear how quickly Finch plans to pursue the approval.

“I would say we’re very pleased and excited to get started and demonstrate that the county made the right choice,” said Finch Paper spokesman John Brodt.

Finch has operated a sludge landfill on adjoining land since 1998, but that landfill is nearly full. The company’s plan is to start filling the county landfill and also seek state permission to create landfill space in the gap between the two facilities.

The company will also accept municipal waste, though most of it must be generated from Saratoga and surrounding counties.

The county landfill has sat unused since it was built in 2000. County leaders decided in 2012 to sell it to generate revenue.

Since last fall, officials have been evaluating and negotiating proposals submitted by three firms: Finch, Waste Management and Casella Resource Solutions. Earlier this month, the county Public Works Committee recommended the Finch proposal.

County leaders said the Finch proposal offered the county the most revenue and would have the least environmental impact of the three proposals.

“There was a huge amount of time, effort, thought and discussion that went into this,” said Public Works Committee Chairwoman Jean Raymond, R-Edinburg.

Southworth, the supervisor who voted against the sale, said she believes revenue estimates have been overstated and said under the proposed contract, the landfill could be accepting waste from as far away as New York City.

She said if she had been on the board at the time, she wouldn’t have voted to build the $10 million landfill, which has never been used. “What began as a boondoggle at the expense of the taxpayer has become nothing more than a government project that neither makes us whole or serves the greater good of Saratoga County,” Southworth said.

Several supervisors rebutted her.

“I’m pleased we’re at the point of getting revenue from the landfill. It’s been a long and difficult road for many people,” said Supervisor Phil Barrett, R-Clifton Park.

Under the proposal, Finch will pay the county $4 million once DEC approves the landfill to accept paper sludge. It will pay $2 million once the “valley fill” to unite the two landfills is approved.

Beyond that, any tipping fees above $38 per ton will be split evenly between Finch Paper and the county. The landfill will be able to accept 275,000 tons of waste per year.

The county share of tipping fees, estimated at $1.7 million per year, includes the $200,000 to be paid to Northumberland.

The remaining $1.5 million will be split evenly between the county and its towns, cities and villages. The municipal shares will be determined based on the existing county sales tax distribution formula.

It isn’t yet known when the transaction will be finalized.

 
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