Fulton County has withdrawn Montgomery County's right to dispose of garbage at its landfill, citing a breach of contract.
The two counties signed an intermunicipal agreement in 2014 that allowed Montgomery County to haul its garbage to Fulton County at a tipping fee of $72.50 per ton. Over the course of the agreement, Montgomery County disposed of 202,2006 tons of garbage in Fulton County, at a cost of $7.6 million.
In a news release Monday, the Fulton County Board of Supervisors accused Montgomery County of profiting by "close to $2 million" during the four-year term of the agreement by taking in waste from outside Montgomery County and "charging an additional mark-up fee" before delivering it to Fulton County. That practice used "over 50,000 tons of Fulton County Landfill capacity," the county said in its prepared statement.
"By entering the two-county Intermunicipal Agreement for Waste Disposal Services, the County of Fulton agreed to accept municipal solid waste at its landfill that was generated by the citizens of Montgomery County and managed by that County and its constituent municipalities. Waste generated in, delivered by or on behalf of other municipalities was not acceptable," states the news release. "In fall 2017, it was discovered that the County of Montgomery was delivering waste from other areas of the state that was not authorized under the Agreement."
Montgomery County Executive Matt Ossenfort said he disagreed with several elements of Fulton County's accusation.
"We never charged any mark-up fees; the price of $72.50 is the tip fee," he said. "We felt like the way that we conducted our operations was authorized by Fulton County, so it's a difference of opinion. I don't know where the [$2 million] number comes from. We have a tip fee that pays for our operations, if we have a surplus, that goes to help fund our operations and any future equipment needs that we might have, or things of that nature."
Montgomery County entered the intermunicipal agreement with Fulton County after the dissolution of the Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Authority. The original agreement was said to be a 10-year agreement with an option for a five-year renewal.
Garbage from Montgomery County increased each of the four years of the agreement, starting with 35,536 tons in 2014, then 48,049 in 2015, 46,695 in 2016 and 53,044 in 2017. From January to May of 2018, there were 18,880 tons of garbage hauled from Montgomery County to Fulton County.
Ossenfort said he believes there was always some outside-of-county waste being dropped of Fulton County's transfer stations, and that continued throughout the contract.
"There was never any decision to make any changes that would lead to any additional profits," he said. "We operated in the same fashion throughout the entire time. What changed were some of the broader circumstances that were going on in the market, and maybe some things going on in Fulton County, but we never made any changes in regards to our policy of our operations of the transfer stations."
Fulton County officials said in their prepared statement on Monday they discussed the issue with Montgomery County for "several months" before the decision was made to bar them from disposing of waste at the Fulton County landfill.
Fulton County officials would not answer questions about the issue on Monday, saying the statement was all the county was willing to say on the issue.
"Landfill capacity is a precious commodity intended to ensure that residents of Fulton County have solid waste disposal resources for decades into the future. After careful consideration, the Board of Supervisors terminated county of Montgomery tipping privileges to protect Fulton County residents’ rights and fairness under the agreement," said Fulton County officials in their prepared statement.
Ossenfort said Montgomery County made an offer to Fulton County to maintain the intermunicipal agreement, but Fulton County's response was to "abruptly" end the service on Thursday, giving Montgomery County 24 hours to come up with an alternative place to dispose of its garbage.
"We worked with the company that operates the transfer stations and does the hauling, and we were able to secure a temporary solution with Seneca Meadows Landfill, and we'll be bringing the waste there for the time being until we can strategize and come up with a more permanent solution," he said.
Montgomery County contracts with GottaDo Contracting LLC to manage the transfer stations and haul waste to the landfill.
"It's really too early to tell how big of a [cost] impact there is," he said. "Our goal is to try to keep the cost low for the residents of the municipalities of the county. I'm not envisioning any large tip fee increase at the transfer station, but we're going to have to look deeper into the numbers and see how the rest of the year goes.
Ossenfort said he expects to maintain a good relationship with Fulton County on other projects, such as the operation of Fulton-Montgomery Community College and the proposed regional business park, but he thinks there may be litigation over the garbage deal. He said he also does not expect the end of the garbage deal with Fulton County will renew discussions over whether to create a Montgomery County landfill.
"I think you'd have to have a local municipality willing to talk about it; I don't think we have that and the regulatory environment in New York state isn't really siting landfills at this point," he said.