Ulster, Greene and Sullivan consider combining trash operations

A feasibility study for what could be a three-county regional resource recovery facility was unveiled to legislative chairmen and other officials from Ulster, Greene and Sullivan counties at the Ulster Resource Recovery Agency headquarters last week. UCRRA Executive Director Tim Rose was quick to point out this week that no decisions have been made.
Published reports that potential landfills were being considered for New Paltz, Lloyd or Ulster or anywhere in Ulster County “were simply false,” he said. Rose insisted that this consultant study was only in the preliminary stages.

“At this point,” he said, “it’s mostly about the possibility of the three counties saving money through some kind of joint operation.” The Middletown-based consultants have named the would-be tri-county authority (which would require state approval) “GUS” for Greene, Ulster and Sullivan. UGS and SUG were not considered, Rose said.

Ulster, Sullivan and Greene counties currently ship solid waste to landfills in central New York at a cost for transportation of an estimated $3 million annually. Ulster, with more population than Sullivan and Greene combined, accounts for about half that amount. According to consultants, Ulster County recycles almost 30 percent of its garbage, much more based on population, than the other counties.

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Cornerstone Environmental Group was hired by the RRA last August for a fee of $39,700. Its 45-page report compares solid-waste operations in the three counties.
The Cornerstone report, delivered at an executive session last week attended by some 20 officials, “strongly” advises any regional authority to impose “flow control” in order to assure a reliable stream of product. Ulster has flow control, Greene and Sullivan do not.

The three counties differ markedly in governmental structure. Legislature-controlled Greene and Sullivan employ appointed professional administrators for day-to-day business, while Ulster has an elected county executive. Greene and Sullivan operate their solid-waste collection and shipping facilities. The Ulster County RRA is governed by an independent state-sanctioned agency whose directors are appointed by the county legislature.

Years of heated protests, rallies and marches against locating a county landfill in Saugerties in the late 1980s and early 1990s resulted in the formation of the UCRRA in 1991. The RRA subsequently was tasked with the closure and capping of landfills throughout the county.

The consultants are expected to present their report in public at the March 20 regular session of the county legislature. They are also scheduled to appear before the Greene and Sullivan legislatures that month.

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