The Ulster Town Board has officially declined to sign a new contract with the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency, opting instead to look into whether hauling waste from the town transfer station to the agency’s facility might make more fiscal sense.
According to Town Supervisor James Quigley III, geography is one of the determining factors in the decision.
“Given the geographical proximity of the town’s transfer station [on Miron Lane] to the RRA facility [on Flatbush Road], we understand that it costs them less to service our account than it does other towns,” Quigley said. “Therefore the Town of Ulster is subsidizing other towns because they charge us what they charge Wawarsing, and Wawarsing is one of the furthest towns away. We’re subsidizing all the outer towns. And we asked ourselves if there were better economic alternatives.”
Those alternatives include the possible purchase of a truck and four containers, which would reduce the town’s current UCRRA-owned amount of six by co-mingling recycling at the town’s transfer station. Town officials recently sought bids for that equipment, as well as bids on whether they could contract with a private company to do what UCRRA does. The latter option was deemed too expensive, but thanks to funds from an insurance settlement, the former is potentially more manageable, and according to town officials could give them the flexibility to go in a different direction sooner than they’d be able to if they signed a long-term commitment to the UCRRA.
The proposed UCRRA contracts would cover five years of service, but comes with a 10-year commitment to pay off new containers the agency planned to purchase. The fee for each of the containers would be $77 per month for a decade; the service contract would include annual increases on top of the current rate of $62 per pull and a $103 per ton emptying fee for containers. The total per-container cost over the length of the contract would come to $9,240.
Frank Petramale, the town’s highway superintendent, said that it wasn’t clear what happened to the containers after the town’s commitment was completed.
“If we sign the contract and go with them, you guys are locked in to paying for those boxes,” Petramale said at a town board meeting on Thursday, July 16. “I’m not a lawyer, I read the contract two or three times, and I still can’t tell whether we end up with those boxes after we get done paying for them.”
On top of the container fees, Petramale estimated signing the contract could cost the town an additional $15,000 to $20,000 per year.
Instead, the town is considering purchasing its own equipment and moving trash and recycling from its own transfer station directly to the UCRRA facility, which according to Google Maps is a roughly four-minute drive.
“Can we do it? Yeah. I’m anticipating if we did do it ourselves, we’d need maybe one guy half a day, twice a week,” Petramale said. “We’re in the right situation if we choose to do it ourselves, because we’re only two miles from the RRA. We might not be as fortunate if we were in the Town of Shandaken or the Town of Wawarsing.”
Petramale added that beyond the cost of purchasing its own equipment, the actual moving of waste from the town’s transfer station to the UCRRA facility could be folded into his department’s regular operating budget.
“It’s not a hardship to the town,” he said.
“We’re taking resources that we already have every day and sending them here for an hour or sending them there for an hour as opposed to doing highway work all the time,” he said.
In addition to the town’s close proximity to the UCRRA facility, the town also has the option of using funds from an insurance settlement following a fire at its transfer station on July 21, 2009 to purchase the equipment.
“If we had to go and bond, then it might not be a practical thing to do,” Petramale said. “If we purchase everything new, we should be able to do it under the $200,000.”
At last week’s town board meeting, a committee consisting of Petramale and councilmen John Morrow and Rocco Secreto to review the costs associated with going it alone. Their report is expected by the board’s workshop meeting on Thursday, Aug. 6.
Still, with the UCRRA expecting an answer before then, town officials felt comfortable declining the agency’s contract offer.
“We have notified the RRA that we will not be signing their contract,” said Quigley. “The RRA for the better part of the last 18 months has reviewed the financial impacts of the operation of the container service to the town transfer stations. In light of increased capital investment on their part, which is necessary to continue the service, they’re now challenged to figure out a way to pay for it.”
UCRRA Executive Director Tim Rose did not return a call for comment prior to the meeting, but Quigley said he didn’t expect to see a more equitable contract offer.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Quigley said. “Their mindset is that they want to charge a uniform price across the county. They’re going to use the profits from these transfer stations that are close by to subsidize those stations that are far away.”
Instead, Quigley is waiting to review what the town’s three-man committee reports.
“I want to see their numbers and I want to see how they justify it,” he said. “Because I know we have ‘X’ number of charges for container rentals and we have ‘Y’ number of pulls, and I can do the math and add those together. So I want to see how the capital expenditure for buying these four containers and buying this truck changes the economics. Right now we have four containers for recycling materials, because we source separate, and we have two containers for garbage … What we intend on doing is changing our operations to make it co-mingled on the recycling, and we can cut down on the number of containers that we need to run with.”