LOCKPORT - Niagara County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz says a plan is needed soon to shut down the county Refuse Disposal District's last active landfill within two years.
District Director Richard P. Pope disagrees, asserting the construction and demolition landfill off the Lockport Bypass has five years of space left.
However, Glatz isn't convinced by the newest landfill capacity report, noting that last year, a similar analysis concluded the same landfill would run out of space in two years.
The district's only sources of revenue are the fees charged to dump at the C&D landfill and a property tax, charged everywhere in the county except in the four towns that never joined the district: Cambria, Niagara, Newfane and Wilson. The rate ranges from 10 cents to 14 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The district maintains three other landfills that have long since run out of space - one in Wheatfield and two in Lockport.
"They're legally obligated to that forever, and they'll have to monitor them as dormant sites for leachate and sinkholes," said County Legislator John Syracuse, chairman of the Refuse District board.
"The bottom line is, we will eventually have to have a closure plan," Glatz said last week.
"There is a tax levy already in place. Does that tax levy exceed the amount needed to maintain those landfills?" Glatz said.
Syracuse said the real question is whether the C&D landfill is profitable on its own.
"If it's profitable, why wouldn't you mine it and keep it going forever?" asked Syracuse, R-Newfane.
Waste mining involves removal of old waste, something the district has done in the past, using the material to cap leaks at other landfills.
Using the county's in-house financial software, Pope figured that the C&D landfill showed a $281,000 profit last year.
Pope last week submitted a tentative 2013 district budget that reduced spending to $1.9 million, a drop of 5 percent, or $109,000, and cut the tax levy by almost 12 percent. It does not envision an increase in landfill revenue.
One district employee is scheduled to retire next year, reducing the staff to eight, counting Pope.
A field survey in April by the Wendel engineering firm concluded that the C&D landfill had 59,500 cubic yards of space left, which, assuming disposal continuing at the same rate as in 2011, leaves five years and three months of disposal space available.
"Staying open provides a continued public service while reducing the tax levy," Pope said. "I strongly recommend we keep it open to maximize profits."
He said the C&D landfill has handled 5,000 transactions this year for small businesses and residents. "We provide a public need," Pope said.
But Syracuse said he asked Pope to prepare a closure plan in line with Glatz's way of thinking.
"I think we have to evaluate every option," Syracuse said. "Is there truly a revenue we will not be receiving or can we close the thing sooner?"