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St. Lawrence County has solid waste agreement

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators agreed to a deal Tuesday that appears likely to keep its Solid Waste Department solvent for several years, but the fate of recycling coordinator Scott A. Thornhill is not as certain.

Under terms of the plan, the county would spend about $1 million for equipment, union members agreed to talk about workplace changes, and larger haulers that bring waste directly to the Development Authority of the North Country-operated landfill in Rodman would commit 5,000 tons of waste to county transfer stations in return for a $90 per ton tip fee for compacted garbage.

The tipping fee for other haulers would drop from $131 per ton to $125 per ton. The rate for non-haulers who use the transfer stations would drop from $160 per ton to $155 per ton.

“I’m very optimistic we’re going to get the deal done,” said Chester W. “Skip” Bisnett, general manager of the county’s largest private solid waste collector, Casella Waste Services, Potsdam. “We plan on being involved.”

Mr. Bisnett said he is gathering commitments from fellow haulers on how much they will bring to the transfer stations so that he can calculate Casella’s contribution. A legal agreement could be in place by Jan. 1, he predicted.

The deal also sets up a framework for a public/private partnership to deal with future solid waste issues, including diverting organics from the landfill.

“We’ll face them together,” Mr. Bisnett said. “There’s a real importance we stay somewhat close.”

The village of Massena, which had threatened to pull its waste from the transfer stations if tipping fees continued to rise, is also onboard, said Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad.

“Right now, it’s a handshake agreement,” he said. “I’m willing to go through with it.”

Legislators overwhelmingly approved the deal.

Lawmakers were not together, however, on a move by Legislator Stephen M. Putman, D-Canton, to eliminate the job of Mr. Thornhill.

“I think that’s the dumbest idea I’ve heard in a dog’s age. To do this couldn’t come at a worst time,” said Legislator Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg. “The man is doing the job we’ve asked him to do. He’s turning things around. How are you going to cover this position?”

Democratic legislators who supported the elimination of Mr. Thornhill’s $48,000-a-year job said Solid Waste has too many administrators.

“It’s about efficiency,” said Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Helena. “It’s about helping to insure the future of a department that’s in trouble.”

Opponents said the move smacked more of a personal attack and was ill-advised.

“Let’s be clear,” Legislator Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid. “This is a dirty deal.”

Legislator Scott M. Sutherland, R-Pierrepont, said Mr. Thornhill has a command of the figures.

“It’s ridiculous to get rid of the person with the most knowledge,” he said.

William E. Dashnaw, the interim superintendent of the Highway Department, which oversees Solid Waste, said he does not have enough civil engineers to take on Mr. Thornhill’s duties. Solid Waste’s sole manager is Mr. Thornhill.

“I feel undue pressure,” Mr. Dashnaw said. “Please don’t do this.”

After a five-minute recess, Democrats agreed with a majority of Republicans to table the issue until Jan. 3.

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