Saratoga County had enough excess cash in the late 1990s to build a $10 million landfill it didn't need -- and which has never been used. Now, in financial difficulty, it will try to recoup that expense, and perhaps more, by selling or leasing the landfill . The county has requested initial proposals which are due early next month, and then plans to start negotiating, with the goal of reaching a decision by the end of the year.
Privatizing a landfill can mean a windfall, as the town of Colonie showed last year with a deal that brought a $23 million upfront payment and will bring another $32 million or so over 25 years. But there are -- or at least should be -- other considerations besides money, such as the environment, how recycling fits in, and the impact on the local economy.
Saratoga County didn't need the landfill , which was sited on farmland in Northumberland over the strenuous objection of its residents and leaders, because there were other places to take the garbage. They included Colonie and a waste-to-energy plant in Hudson Falls that was hungry for trash and was costing the taxpayers of Washington and Warren counties $5 million a year in subsidies.
Those options are still there and Saratoga County's trash haulers are using them, while the city of Albany has proposed a regional waste-to-energy plant at the Port of Albany that would be environmentally friendly and could save everyone money.
Saratoga 's leaders are right to insist that a "majority" of the waste come from Saratoga or the immediately surrounding counties. But they should also be concerned about how a new landfill would affect recycling, which they say they want to increase.
Another consideration should be the people of Northumberland, who not only didn't want this landfill but now, it appears, will also have to host a new sewage treatment plant, the county's second.
Given all these factors, the best option
-- even if it brought the county less money --
could be selling or leasing the landfill to the Glens Falls-based paper company Finch, Pruyn, which employs about 750 Capital Region residents, operates an adjacent sludge landfill and needs more space.