GUEST: Local Law 7 of 2016 versus Local Law 3 of 1998 – Town of Seneca Falls

My background in Government consists of a two-term, eight-year service as Town Councilman. After my Councilman Service, I was the Zoning Officer for the Town of Seneca Falls for 15 years, retiring in 2015. During those 15 years of Service, I authored a new Town of Seneca Falls Code Book including the combining of Code for the dissolved Village, the existing Town Code, along with new code that had come up over the years that was not included in either municipality’s codes. This also included Local Law 3 of 1998 that went into effect while I was serving the Town in the capacity of Town Councilman.

While serving on the Town Board, we had a Public Hearing on Local Law 3 of 1998. The law effectively restricted any new landfills or expansions and protected the residents of Seneca Falls. On September 4, 2016, I provided the current Town Board members a copy of this law.

Mrs. Lutz said at the last meeting that this is what exactly she is intending to do with Local Law 7. However, Local Law 7 calls for immediate shutdown of continued operations described in Section VIII. This would cause loss of revenue of $2.3 million dollars to the Town Taxpayers. If the law is enacted, the Town Board must budget another $500,000 for litigation due to Breach of Contract with the current Host Community Package. With that in mind, a minimum $2.8 million would have to be budgeted for 2017 and made up by the Taxpayers. In my experience, this would more than likely be closer to tripling the Town Taxes in January. It should be noted that Town Council members would also open themselves up to Personal Lawsuits against them that they may have to pay for personally.

The real point here is that in 1998, Local Law 3 was put up for discussions; Landfill Attorneys attended the Public Hearing and offered some good suggestions, one being that the Law had no provision for promotion of Reuse and Recycle. This meeting was held on January 6, 1998 (these minutes are available from the Seneca Falls Town Clerk’s Office). Several months went by and the Town Board made revisions and passed the new Local Law 3 of 1998 on May 7, 1998. Of note is that Local Law 7 does not even address Reuse and Recycle.

We, the Taxpayers, have already paid once for this legislation. I understand the Town has an Environmental Attorney Firm on retainer. Last month’s bill approached almost $9,000. How many dollars have been spent on Local Law 7 taking time away from real problems such as deteriorating roads, water main breaks, as well as other more important infrastructure problems? Why have we spent so much time and money rehashing law that is already on the books? In the new Code Book that law is Chapter 185 – Landfills.

Enactment of Local Law 7 would force the loss of about 100 jobs because of this Town Board’s actions. That being the case, the Town should have some type of package for displaced workers. Other taxes may increase as well if the Landfill does not support School Districts with thousands of dollars in charitable donation as it does now. Also, Waterloo Central Schools would be affected since the Landfill is in the Waterloo School District and pays property taxes to them. All local businesses would have larger tax bills and the real possibility exists that they could be forced out of business. Potential businesses might not even consider locating here because of the taxes. The Falcon Program (reducing seagulls) could end up causing a less healthy environment with feces being dropped at eating and shopping places in the area if the Landfill is eliminated.

Local Law 7 would mean we, as taxpayers, would have to pay for our roadside trash pickup (new tax) and probably eliminate the benefit of free disposal for Town Residents of trucked in homeowner waste. Let’s not forget that we would need a transfer station that would take our waste to a new place. The waste at the transfer station (of which the town would have to buy land to establish it) would likely not receive a daily cover for odor, resulting in another (new tax) to the taxpayers. State and Federal agencies would regulate the actions as the town does not have the resources to monitor.

I feel people from outside the living area are being recruited to speak at the podium and a certain amount of resentment from the eight-year clay mine group makes their input hard to decipher concerning the validity of their comments on the effect to the Town Taxpayers.
The Town Board has to first create a 5-, 10- and 20-year plans with impacts before passing this law. I have not heard of any work being done to explain what the effect would be if passing this new Local Law were to happen. I call this the “Cart before the Horse Plan” if it proceeds.

The Landfill has achieved a 17+ year of spotless environmental reports which has won them many industry awards and accolades. They have been open and transparent with the Town Board.

The problem is Odor. We know it and the landfill knows it. The Landfill has set forth a multi-million dollar remediation plan to address this issue. Odor control is already addressed in the Town Code and the Host Benefit Agreement yet the Town has not used existing legislation to address this issue.

Elected Officials responsibilities are to all the residents and businesses. We do not need to send a message that the Town of Seneca Falls is not open for business and indeed will enact Local Laws to force business closures and discourage new start-ups.

My suggestion to this issue is to continue to have meetings of the minds, negotiate solutions while developing a short and long term plan to address two scenarios, one with landfill revenue and one without with all impacts noted above. I believe slamming in Local Law 7 and dealing with the cards where they may fall afterwards is irresponsible.

Steven Turkett
Town of Seneca Falls

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