Trash won’t be piling up in Montgomery County this spring when the MOSA contract expires — 30,000 annual tons of the stuff will get dumped in the Fulton County landfill.
Tuesday night the Montgomery County Legislature gathered to approve a tentative 10-year waste disposal plan County Executive Matt Ossenfort negotiated with Fulton County.
“This is by no means a permanent plan,” he said, “but it works right now and it gives us time to think.”
Nearly 25 years ago Montgomery County and its two neighbors to the south banded together to handle their trash, signing the service contract that created the Montgomery Otesgo Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority. On April 30, that contract expires and there’s not much interest in keeping it going, which puts Ossenfort in the stressful position of lining up a new plan for the 30,000 tons of trash Montgomery County generates each year.
As it turns out, MOSA exit strategies are very complex. The solid waste authority leaves behind three closed landfills that must be cared for, along with several transfer stations that will have to be operated either by the host county or a private company.
Contractors are currently bidding on those jobs. But the biggest part of the exit strategy — nailing down where trash will actually go — is done. Now, with the stability of a 10-year contract, trash won’t pile up while county officials try to plan something more permanent.
Currently MOSA ships trash from transfer stations in all three counties to the Seneca Meadows landfill near Seneca Falls. Under the tentative contract, Ossenfort said, Montgomery County’s trash will end up in the Fulton County Landfill on Mud Road.
The Montgomery County Legislature unanimously approved the contract Tuesday.
“[We’re] pleased that we’ve reached a deal,” District 5 Legislator Terry Bieniek, the General Services Committee chairman, said in a statement. “This is certainly a step in the right direction.”
The agreement has yet to be approved by the Fulton County Board of Supervisors. Fulton County officials did not return calls for comment for this story Wednesday, but Ossenfort said the deal has strong support in that county.
This new trash deal was designed to avoid some of the major pitfalls encountered by MOSA. Over the years all three counties were fined millions of dollars for falling below guaranteed annual tonnage contracts.
“We have no guaranteed tonnage in this agreement,” Ossenfort said. “That was a priority.”
He also hopes the new trash arrangement will be cheaper for residents. Currently, MOSA charges $72 a ton to dispose of the county’s trash. Fulton County is charging Montgomery roughly $38 a ton to dump the garbage, which is a bit more than it charges municipalities within Fulton County.
That rate does not reflect the final cost. The expense of running county transfer stations and maintaining closed landfills eventually will be added to the landfill fee. Ossenfort hopes the final cost per ton will fall below the current MOSA rates.
“Think of it this way,” he said. “If a municipality creates 10,000 tons of trash a year and we cut rates by just $5 per ton, they’ll save $50,000. That’s significant.”
At this point, he said, savings are likely but won’t be definite until cost estimates on closed landfill maintenance and transfer station operation come back some time in the next month.
Schoharie County Officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Ossenfort said he’s been in trash-related talks with that county since taking office and some sort of arrangement might still be reached.