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Otsego County gets OK to leave MOSA

Otsego County gets OK to leave MOSA

Special legislation passed this week by both the state Senate and Assembly authorizes Otsego County

Special legislation passed this week by both the state Senate and Assembly authorizes Otsego County to secede from the Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority — although that cannot happen until at least 2014, when the 25-year agreement that created the authority expires.

The state legislation, requested by the Otsego County Board of Supervisors and approved by a near-unanimous votes in both houses, is expected to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, an Otsego County official said Friday.

The legislation follows a September report by the state Authorities Budget Office, which determined MOSA has failed to fulfill the mission it began in 1987 and may need to be dissolved.

The ABO report said MOSA’s control of solid waste in the three counties has significantly increased waste management costs for the partner counties through inefficient operation of its five transfer stations, failure to site a landfill in accordance with authority goals and failure to ensure waste generated in the counties goes to MOSA facilities.

Proponents of reforming rather than dissolving MOSA argued that the ABO findings pre-dated the arrival of new MOSA Executive Director Dennis Heaton, who took over in December 2009 from Gilbert Chichester.

Edward Wesnofske, an Otsego County representative on the MOSA board, said Friday his county has expressed interest for some time in getting out of MOSA and handling its own solid waste disposal.

“The system is unworkable, it’s inefficient,” said Wesnofske, a former chairman of the MOSA board who said part of the problem is that the agency operates too many costly facilities.

MOSA is unworkable, Wesnofske said, partly because it was created on the premise that the three counties would successfully site a landfill. That never happened, and the authority has been forced to pay to have contractors haul collections to outside landfills.

If collections from the respective counties fall short and thus fail to generate sufficient revenue to cover operations, those counties deficient in collections have to cover the revenue shortfall. One year, Montgomery County had to pay $1 million, while this year, Wesnofske said, Montgomery County may be responsible for paying an extra $250,000 and Otsego County may have a bill of about $50,000.

In 2009, the three counties paid a total of $1.6 million to cover that year’s revenue shortfall.

“The system is not working,” Wesnofske said.

The Otsego County Board of Supervisors has hired a consulting firm to explore its options, which will include evaluating private contracting, he said. But, Wesnofske said, “nothing is going to happen overnight.”

Despite the state legislation allowing Otsego County out of MOSA, Wesnofske said there will have to be an agreement on the distribution of the authority assets before any county leaves the authority.

The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors voted in 2008 to secede from MOSA as of 2014. With one abstention, the vote was unanimous.

Earlier this year, though, MOSA Board Chairman John Thayer, who is also supervisor of the Montgomery County town of Root, said it might be advantageous for Montgomery County to remain in MOSA, even beyond 2014.

Heaton and Thayer could not be reached for comment Friday.

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