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Michael A. Ellison
Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Robert G. Rolison (R-Poughkeepsie) and Environment Committee Chairman James J. Miccio (R-Village of Fishkill) today announced that the fact-finding Resource Recovery Agency (RRA) “working group” has released its preliminary recommendations to resolve the problem of a skyrocketing subsidy at the County’s solid waste disposal agency.
“Since March this ‘working group’ under the direction of Legislator Miccio has worked tirelessly to research and investigate ways to reduce the RRA’s dependency on a County subsidy in order to remain solvent,” said Rolison. “The recommendations they put forth today aren’t final solutions but recommendations for the Legislature to consider as we continue to move forward and address the various challenges confronting the solid waste disposal system in Dutchess County.”
“Policy solutions to the RRA’s failures will not come easy and will take time, but we cannot ignore them. Our mission as a ‘working group’ was to examine ways to reduce or even eliminate the County subsidy of the public-benefit corporation that should be self-sufficient. With increased oversight of the RRA and a more equitable system by which everyone pays for waste disposal, not just the already overwhelmed property taxpayer, Dutchess County can continue to offer an environmentally sound way to dispose of garbage at a price taxpayers can afford,” said Miccio.
The RRA “working group” itemized their recommendations into three categories. Short-term objectives stress the importance of a Commissioner of Solid Waste, a Charter position that has not been filled by the County Executive since the retirement of Planning Commissioner Roger Akley at the end of 2009. Mid-term and long-term options found in the report include an equitable environmental user fee system and eventually sale or closure of the waste-to-energy facility if the subsidy cannot be negated by other means.
“Shuttering the waste-to-energy facility should be a last resort option since the plant on Sand Dock Road in Poughkeepsie offers a viable environmental alternative to burying trash while converting more than half of the County’s solid waste into green energy. Dutchess County, since 1989, has invested tremendous resources into the facility and we should be proud of the positive impact it has had on our community. Unfortunately, the environmental methods by which Dutchess residents and businesses dispose of their solid waste come with a price. It is our job as Legislators to minimize that cost and to find the most equitable method by which to pay for waste disposal,” said Miccio.
“During these tough economic times nobody is looking forward to the 2011 budget where despite the increase demand for services the revenues coming into the County have shrunk significantly. The last thing any homeowner in Dutchess County wants is to face increases in their already astronomical property tax bill which is comprised of state, school, local and county portions. In order for the property tax payer to not foot the bill for waste disposal the Legislature must examine other methods to fund the RRA while scrutinizing the agency itself so that efficiency and confidence is restored,” said Dale Borchert, Chairman of the Budget, Finance, and Personnel Committee.
Miccio thanked fellow Legislators who dedicated their time and energy to this project: Dale Borchert (LaGrange), Gerry Hutchings (Beekman), Alan Surman (Dover), Steve White (Poughkeepsie). Rolison concurred with Miccio and has asked those individuals to serve on a special committee that will continue to guide the Legislature on all matters relating to solid waste.
“These five legislators are dedicated and passionate about this issue and I see no one else better prepared to lead the Legislature into enacting reforms at the RRA. They will have their work cut out for them to say the least, but absent a Solid Waste Commissioner the Legislature will have to serve as the taxpayer watchdogs over this embattled agency. It is our hope that we can work with the County Executive in appointing a professional, full-time official to serve as the Dutchess County Solid Waste Commissioner in the very near future. Until that happens the Legislature will fill that void by examining policy initiatives that will address inefficiencies that have escalated the County subsidy,” said Rolison.
Rolison ended by saying the new Resource Recovery Reform Committee will begin to immediately review the state required 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) that, once adopted by the RRA Board, will have to be approved by the Legislature. This Committee will also work with Dutchess County Comptroller Jim Coughlan, who will release a review of the agency in the coming days, to increase accountability and efficiency with the hope of restoring confidence in an agency plagued by allegations of fiscal mismanagement.
“An environmental user fee and even flow control, that will direct all garbage to be sent to the RRA, will only work if there is confidence in the management at the agency that public monies are being spent frugally and wisely. There is a long road ahead of us, but the report today is a great start at putting us on a path toward a fiscally sound and environmentally friendly solid waste disposal system in Dutchess County,” concluded Miccio.