A court sided with the Town of Colonie earlier this month in an appeal of a lawsuit that had been leveled by Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners and other residents challenging the town’s landfill operating agreement.
The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on July 3, allowing Capital Region Landfills, Inc., part of Waste Connections, Inc., to continue running the landfill. Conners and the other parties said they believed the operating agreement between the two parties was in fact a lease agreement, but the court ruled that claim was “without merit.”
The court upheld a state Supreme Court decision, ruling the agreement “neither divests the town of absolute possession and control over the landfill nor grants such rights exclusively to CRL.” The town still has significant control over the landfill, with unlimited rights to enter the property at any reasonable times, the court found. The town can “operate the landfill in the event of CRL’s failure to do so in conformity with the agreement,” the ruling stated.
Conners said the plaintiffs have until Aug. 5 to decide whether they will file another appeal. Conners said he would like to make an appeal and will discuss it further with his attorney, Sal Ferlazzo, and the other parties. He said handing over the landfill to Waste Connections, Inc., was a one-shot deal that may have helped the town initially with a cash infusion for a few years, but there will still be financial issues the town has to deal with.
“Clearly, the Town of Colonie has financial difficulties. The short term gain to sell the landfill I don’t think was in the best interest to the people in the Town of Colonie,” Conners said.
Conners pointed to the New York State Comptroller’s recent report citing Colonie as one of the most fiscally stressed municipalities in the state. Town Supervisor Paula Mahan said the town is in its sixth year of a 10-year plan to get Colonie back on its feet financially and is moving in the right direction.
“At the close of almost two years, I am happy to report that the town has benefitted greatly from our operating agreement with CRL,” Mahan said in a statement. “We still own the landfill, which is running smoothly, and the town is reaping the benefits of a guaranteed annual income from our landfill.”
She credited the agreement as playing a role in eliminating the town’s deficit.
“There’s no doubt that she inherited problems,” Conners said. “I just don’t agree with the way she chose to deal with it.”
Mahan called the suit “frivolous, irresponsible and baseless legal action” that wasted taxpayer money. Town Attorney Mike Magguilli is looking to see if there can be any redress for the town, which paid roughly $40,000 fighting the suit over the past two years.
“If it in fact appears this lawsuit was baseless, there’s a possibility we can go to court and seek reimbursements,” Magguilli said.
Conners said he thinks the town’s landfill should be managed by Colonie. He referred to the Albany landfill, which he said provides “significant revenue” for the City of Albany. He suggested doing something with the landfills as a county-wide tactic to increase recycling and improve the front-end sorting of the materials.
“I think (the way) it’s being run now is a short-term benefit for Capital Region Landfills. I don’t think it benefits the people of the Town of Colonie or Albany County long term,” Conners said.