Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Thayer described the end of the 25-year MOSA agreement as a sort of divorce.
“We just want to get what’s ours,” he said.
The Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority was created nearly 25 years ago by a service contract that expires April 30, 2014. The end date is closer than it might seem, given all that must be done to prepare for it, and representatives from the three counties will meet in the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors chambers Monday to discuss how to move forward.
Currently, things don’t look good for the trash alliance. Otsego County has been looking to get out for a while, and Thayer said Montgomery County won’t be looking to extend the contract. That leaves Schoharie County out in the cold.
“There’s no way we’d be able to move our trash as efficiently as MOSA,” said Schoharie County board Chairman Philip Skowfoe.
Montgomery and Otsego counties have larger populations and generate considerably more trash than Schoharie County. Schoharie County is much smaller and even more rural than the other two counties, Skowfoe said, and just doesn’t have the economies of scale offered by MOSA.
As chairman of the MOSA board, Skowfoe called the special meeting, in part to lobby for a contract extension.
“But I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said. “I think they’re going to force a split on us.”
He argued Montgomery and Otsego county leaders want out of MOSA due to past grievances. Montgomery County especially has long maintained a contentious relationship with MOSA as it rarely provided the amount of trash it was required to. Last year, the county had to pay $80,000 in shortfall penalties. In both 2008 and 2009, it was hit with $1 million in penalties.
“But MOSA is more efficient now,” Skowfoe said.
Thayer isn’t considering a MOSA extension, thinking instead about how to divide the infrastructure.
According to MOSA Executive Director Dennis Heaton, five transfer stations stocked with heavy equipment, three landfills and reserve funds are up for grabs. In all, the three counties could split more than $10 million in cash and infrastructure.
“They also have to decide what to do about the landfills,” Heaton said. “Someone will be responsible for their upkeep long after we’re all dead.”
Thayer is looking to keep all the transfer stations within Montgomery County and a respectable fraction of machinery and reserve funds. Otsego County, he said, is trying to get its transfer stations assessed at a low value so it will get more machinery and money — a subject that will likely come up at Monday’s meeting.
“We’re trying at this point to avoid going to court,” he said. “Any time you hire a lawyer, you’re spending a lot of taxpayer money.”
There’s also the issue of what to do with the garbage generated by 144,000 people once MOSA is a thing of the past.
MOSA moved more than 30,000 tons of solid waste out of Montgomery County last year and nearly 100,000 tons across all three counties.
Thayer said consulting company Cashin and Cahill was brought in this spring to chart of plan for solid waste independence.
“I think we can handle it,” he said.
Schoharie County, on the other hand, is still just hoping to keep MOSA alive, Skowfoe said.