Schenectady County

Colonie town board to consider landfill lease

Colonie may be poised to trade its trash business for a lump sum of cash.

Colonie may be poised to trade its trash business for a lump sum of cash.

Members of the Town Board may vote on a 25-year deal to lease out the town landfill’s operation on Loudon Road to California-based Waste Connections. The deal would include a one-time payment of $23 million to settle up both the town and landfill deficits, then pay Colonie $2.3 million annually over the first five years of the contract.

For the remainder of the contract, the town would receive annual payments of $1.1 million. Colonie would also benefit from about $700,000 annually from the landfill’s gas plant.

Supervisor Paula Mahan revealed details of the deal earlier this month, after it was selected from six proposals submitted to the town. Board members are scheduled to have another public hearing on the matter during their meeting in Town Hall at 7 p.m. today, and could vote on whether to sign the contract afterward.

Mahan, a Democrat, said the deal would be a windfall for the town. She said the town would still own the landfill, but would immediately erase a deficit of roughly $20 million.

“I’m very confident that this is an excellent business decision for the town,” she said Wednesday. “We would be able to bring both of those [deficits] down to zero.”

Mahan said Waste Connections would also cover the roughly $20 million in potential expenses if the landfill is closed, plus guarantee an additional $20 million if the property needs further environmental mitigation. And if Waste Connections decides to expand the landfill beyond its 170,500-ton annual maximum, the town would get $6 for each additional ton.

But not everyone is on board with privatizing the town’s trash business. Denise Sheehan, the former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and a Republican challenging Mahan for the supervisor’s position, claims the deal would lock town residents into paying markedly higher rates for trash pickup.

“Residents are being kept in the dark and at the same time will be asked to pay more for their trash pick up,” she said in a statement released this week. “A deal of this magnitude should include more protections for residents and businesses from rising disposal costs to avoid this deal from resulting in a hidden garbage tax.”

Sheehan also called for a moratorium on the proposed deal to allow more time for residents to scrutinize its implications. She also asked that Mahan release details from all six proposals so they can be studied by residents.

“Deals of this nature are complex and should be subject to extensive public scrutiny,” she said.

Attempts to reach Sheehan for further comment were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Mahan claims Sheehan’s criticisms are rooted in politics. She said town officials consulted extensively with outside engineers, attorneys and financial advisers to choose the best proposal to suit the town.

“[Sheehan] is spreading a lot of rumors about a lot of things that are not true and using a lot of scare tactics.,” she said. “She’s using these political games, and it’s not in the best interest of our community.”

Ironically, Waste Connections is the company that recently acquired County Waste and Recycling Service, the trash service that paid a state-mandated $700,000 fine to the town for providing weight slips that falsely reported the amount of trash on trailers delivered to the Colonie landfill. The acquisition allowed the company to take over six collection operations, three transfer stations and a recycling facility.

Mahan said Waste Connections is among the top three haulers in the nation and would be an ideal company to take over the town’s trash service. She said the deal would also protect residents and businesses by implementing a cap on costs that would be based on the Consumer Price Index.

“We have to look out for what is best for this town and protect its future,” she said of the deal.

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