County eyes life after MOSA

With a little over a year and a half left until its current waste-disposal contract ends, Montgomery County is questioning its future as part of the Montgomery-Otsego-Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority.

According to John Thayer, Montgomery County Board of Supervisors chairman and chairman of the MOSA board, Otsego County announced in mid-2012 that it wanted to pull out of the long-controversial MOSA and develop its own plan to handle solid waste.

Thayer, who the Root town supervisor, says he wants to work with the state Legislature to determine who should take ownership of some of the transfer stations run by MOSA after its dissolution. He wants to persuade state legislators to at least amend the home-rule law that allows Otsego County to withdraw from the authority this year. Montgomery County is discussing doing the same, depending on whether Otsego County pulls out.

Thayer said Montgomery County needs to develop a waste-management plan regardless of MOSA’s status.

“Its not a question of ‘could we,’ it’s ‘will we,'” Thayer said.

Otsego County originally wanted to pull out by the end of June 2012, but it might not happen until April.

Regardless of when Otsego County manages to leave, the service contract with MOSA will run out in May 2014.

Before his passing, former Board of Supervisors Chairman Shayne Walters said was confused by Otsego County’s desire to leave, stating it made no real financial sense. Walters had advocated for dealing with the issue aggressively, citing Otsego County’s own aggressive negotiations with Montgomery County.

MOSA Executive Director Dennis Heaton said there is a way for Otsego County to pull out.

“If all the counties filed for home-rule legislation, they could have the authority dissolved and pick up the responsibility of solid waste management in their own counties,” Heaton said.

Heaton said MOSA still is a viable entity, and from a financial perspective, a valuable one.

“If you buy a 50-pound bag of sugar, it’s cheaper than buying 50 one-pound bags,” Heaton explained, saying the bulk trash that MOSA received from three counties may be cheaper than one county paying for its own garbage.

However, Heaton did say MOSA had trouble in its middle years after a strong start, but it has had a marked improvement in both cost and service. Rates have dropped 35 percent in the last few years, from $106 per ton to $69.

“If you have everyone working together, its a great program,” Heaton said.

Thayer said he believes Montgomery County is capable of handling its own trash.

“I believe we could. Could we do it cheaper? Probably not,” Thayer said.

“Its just unclear where the future of MOSA lies,” said Doug Greene of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development and Planning. Greene has been put in charge of working out a new plan on what to do when Montgomery County is no longer part of MOSA, be it this year or next.

On Wednesday, Greene said, the county met with several consulting firms on how to go forward with this issue. According to Greene, consultants were not taking MOSA completely out of the consideration.

“We’re open to outside expertise and ideas on what is the best approach and what is the most cost-effective,” he said.

Greene said what he heard from the consultants was constructive, and their formal proposals are due Feb. 15.

Greene said when Montgomery County leaves MOSA, it would be logical to have a countywide plan for trash removal, rather than leaving each municipality to its own devices. That wold include the city of Amsterdam, which already has its own waste authority.