October 16, 2021

Vote to raise tipping fee on hold

Kevin Conlon/city editor

A group of people drop off recyclables Thursday at Cortland County’s recycling center on Pendleton Street in Cortland. Cortland County legislators returned to committee a resolution to raise the county’s tipping fee $10 a ton, which would have meant an increase in the cost for the city’s blue bags.

A resolution to raise Cortland County’s tipping fee by $10 per ton was pulled from the agenda of Thursday’s Legislature meeting and referred back to the Highway Committee, delaying, at least for a while, a measure that would increase the price Cortland city residents pay for blue garbage bags.

“I can wait,” said Legislator Ron Van Dee (D-Cortland) during the vote to refer back to committee.

The Highway Committee voted, 7-0, during the Legislature meeting to take the item back up at the committee’s Nov. 3 meeting.

That committee had originally voted, 3-2, to approve raising the landfill tipping fee to $90 per ton from $80 per ton. Legislators Linda Jones (R-Homer) and Joe Nauseef (R-Cortlandville) had voted no, while legislators Richard Stock (D-Cortland) and Van Dee were absent.

The county last raised the tipping fee in 2018 to $80 per ton from $65 per ton to help close an $800,000 deficit in the solid waste budget. Of the $10 proposed increase, $5 would go into an equipment reserve account.

Highway Superintendent Charlie Sudbrink said the additional money would go toward a reserve account for equipment and a reserve account to later cap the landfill cells.

“The last time the county capped a cell it cost in excess of $1 million,” Sudbrink had said. “The estimate to cap the remaining cells is $3 million.”

The increase would also make both facilities financially self-sufficient, which the county’s flow control law had intended. The law requires waste generated in the county to be taken to the county landfill.

However, Sudbrink said $150,000 is still being taken from the general fund to cover costs.

With the increase, the landfill would generate $697,000 more per year, Sudbrink said the recycling center needs $663,000 to cover costs.

Lesa Williams, who co-owns Cortland Sanitation with husband Myron Williams, spoke on the issue during public comment, raising several questions.

“By your actual numbers for 2019, the landfill showed a profit of over $1.2 million — where did the money go?” she asked. “The revised 2020 shows a $122,000-plus profit. The revenue showed less than the 2019 — why would you lower the revenue when you should have been increasing it due to flow control.”

She also questioned why fuel at the landfill would cost more than $80,000, as the department requested for 2021. The 2020 revised budget shows only $15,800 used so far and a 2019 actual spending of $11,300.

She also questioned why overtime increased $10,000.

“Are we going to be opened holidays?” she said.

She also questioned why the county administrator budgeted $30,000 for software in the 2021 budget when the department requested only $6,500 and the 2020 revised budget only has it as $6,500.

Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin said earlier Thursday if the county does vote to raise the tipping fee, a blue bag increase to city residents will be imminent.

“If the county increases the tipping fee, we will have to raise the price of blue bags, probably 50 cents for a large bag and 25 cents for a medium,” he said Thursday.

Currently, a large bag is $5 and a medium is $3.25.