Bartels Inaugural

“Dump. dump the MegaDump” –  Most of us beyond a certain age can remember that resounding war cry when Ulster County attempted, and failed, to locate a county landfill at Winston Farm just west of the Thruway exit in Saugerties. Protest songs were written” “Dump, dump the garbage dump!” Murals were painted on buildings, fists were raised in the air, pitchforks, too.

It could happen again. After more than 30 years the Winston Farm remains vacant and available and time is running short for the county to adopt a new solid waste disposal strategy, maybe a county landfill.

Or so warned legislature chairwoman Tracey Bartels in her first state of the county address to the governing body on Tuesday night.

Bartels, a non-enrolled six-termer from Gardiner, didn’t mention Winston Farm, or any place else, in a 20-minute address. She issued a call to action.

“We must take action. The status quo is not sustainable. There are no easy answers,” she said. Ulster County Ulster County’s Resource Recovery Agency, created by state legislation sponsored by former assemblyman Maurice Hinchey in 1986, after the county legislature rejected a county landfill, yearly ships 130 tons of garbage to Seneca Meadows near Syracuse, she said. That landfill is rapidly filling up and the county can expect a substantial increase in fees by the end of the year.

A major part of the problem is that the Chinese are no longer accepting recyclables, meaning loads going forward will be heavier, revenues from recycles negligible. “The status quo is not sustainable.”

Bartels also spoke to the possibility of a regional approach to waste disposal. A regional planning consortium, “GUS” (for Greene, Ulster, Sullivan) was established last year and has produced studies that indicate a regional solution is viable, if not expensive.

Ulster alone is spending $7 million a year on Seneca Meadows, a good portion of it on trucks and fuel for transport. For context, $7 million more than pays off the $92 million county jail, its bonds cost $6 million a year. Seven million is equal to about nine percent of the county property tax levy.

Should the county go in that direction, it then comes down to location and state approval. Two generations ago, DEC was hell-bent on removing polluting local landfills. There is no indication of change in that policy. As for location, even a hint of a landfill in any “host” community will set off a firestorm of opposition. “Never Again?” For sure.

The diminutive and determined chairwoman is “committed to action.” She will shortly name a special committee of six legislators and three members of the RRA to research and offer recommendations. It would appear she already knows the score.

I doubt if definitive action will be taken this year as the entire legislature is on the ballot. But like next week’s garbage can on the curb, it is coming.