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More trash talk planned in St. Lawrence County

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CANTON — A future direction for the St. Lawrence County Solid Waste Department and the price of tipping fees could come to a head Monday during discussion by the Board of Legislators of the department’s budget.

Democrats will caucus before the meeting to determine the amount of support for a plan promoted by Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, that would increase a surcharge for direct haulers to the Development Authority of the North Country landfill in Jefferson County from $4.50 per ton to $18.50 per ton.

The bulk of the increase, $13 per ton, would be a new surcharge to help the county cover its underused transfer stations. The existing $4.50 per ton fee to cover leachate removal would increase to $5.50 per ton.

Solid Waste Committee Chairman Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, said he hopes the county will wait for a cost analysis.

“I think it would be a big mistake to ram something through Monday night,” he said.

Mr. Lightfoot will have a meeting at 2:30 p.m. in the courthouse with haulers, Massena village representatives and other interested parties before legislators convene at 4:30 p.m. to try to come together on a plan that addresses how to lower tip fees and increase tonnages.

“As of now, we don’t have a plan agreed on that can satisfy everyone’s needs,” Mr. Lightfoot said.

Mr. Lightfoot’s committee has been meeting with groups affected by the department’s troubles. The county is struggling to come up with a way to lower its tipping fee as the amount of waste dropped off at transfer stations has declined.

Direct haulers to the DANC-operated landfill are unhappy with increasing the surcharge.

“They don’t want Fred’s plan, in a word,” Mr. Lightfoot said. “It increases their costs if they don’t pass it on.”

The village of Massena has threatened to stop using the county transfer station. It estimates it could save at least $100,000 annually by working a partnership with a third-party hauler or moving the waste itself. A Massena boycott of the transfer stations would further diminish tonnages for the county.

“If Massena does that, the St. Lawrence County Solid Waste Department goes under,” Mr. Lightfoot said.

He also has met with the Civil Service Employees Association, which he said is willing to talk about 10-hour days and weekend overtime changes.

“I give them credit,” Mr. Lightfoot said. “They stepped up to the plate.”

Mr. Lightfoot has a plan to no longer have the county handle its long-range hauling in favor of a contractual agreement with anyone with the proper equipment. He has asked County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire to do a cost analysis of Mr. Morrill’s suggestion and his own. She has found a professor at Clarkson University willing to analyze the proposals, Mr. Lightfoot said.

Mr. Morrill said he is committed to keeping the Solid Waste Department because it is a way of the county living up to its obligations to the DANC landfill, along with Jefferson and Lewis counties and the city of Watertown.

“The decisions have already been made,” he said.

Mr. Morrill would use the roughly $1 million available that used to cover some post-employment benefits to invest in modern equipment.

That money is only about half of what the department needs, Mr. Lightfoot said.

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