Northampton Media: “BPW Takes Emergency Measures to Retire Landfill Debt”

Northampton Media has this report today on the financial state of Northampton’s landfill:

Anne Marie Schauer, Financial Administrator of the…city’s Department of Public Works (DPW), presented recently updated landfill closure numbers to the Board. According to Schauer, compared to last year, the landfill closure fund is showing a gap of approximately $1.2 million. The city must retire the fund and pay off all landfill debt by the middle of 2011, when the currently active landfill cells are slated to close…

[DPW Chief Edward “Ned”] Huntley and City Engineer James Laurila enumerated the following factors [for the $1.2 million gap]:

  • The DPW’s purchase of two properties near the landfill in settlement of two lawsuits
  • Increased capping, electricity, and long-term maintenance costs 
  • Unexpected fees in the areas of legal counsel and environmental compliance
  • Ameresco’s refusal to pay Northampton $185,000 in “milestone payments” for the right to operate a landfill gas-to-energy plant at the site
  • The production, by Stantec engineering consultants, of a so-called “options study” that examined what the city might do if it chooses not to expand its regional landfill.

…After lengthy deliberation, Schmidt moved to issue an RFP to sell the cell-phone tower lease as a permanent easement with a minimum bid of $634,000, to double bag fees at the transfer station from one dollar to two, and to petition city hall to accept a 50% cut in the host community fee. The Board approved the motion unanimously.

The board agreed to discuss, at its next meeting, the possibility of getting rid of the volume discount offered to commercial haulers at the landfill.

See the complete report plus video of the December 2 Board of Public Works meeting at Northampton Media.

See also:

Video: Mayoral Debate, 10/27/09; Landfill Risks; Costs of Alternatives to Landfill Expansion
Here is page 30 from Stantec/HDR’s 8/17/09 Landfill Alternatives Study presentation (630KB, PDF). It shows how Northampton’s current $68.07/ton average net tip fee for commercial customers compares to some out-of-state disposal options:

It would seem that Northampton could ship its trash today to Seneca Meadows – Seneca Falls, NY for a cost that’s comparable to the fee the Northampton landfill currently charges its commercial customers. Indeed, the capacity of landfills in New York and Pennsylvania to receive our waste might even increase over the next 20 years, as the Solid Waste Management Alternatives Study (PDF, 2.7MB) notes:

Recently New York City enacted a new Solid Waste Management Plan that requires export of waste via rail or barge. This means that residential waste collected in New York City (approximately 11,500 tons per day) that is currently going to Northeast landfills, such as those in upstate New York and Pennsylvania, will be exported to Virginia, South Carolina, Ohio and other locations accessible by rail or barge. New York City recently entered into two 20-year long-term contracts that will divert approximately 3,000 tons per day of waste from landfills in the Northeast. This is relevant to Northampton because it is likely that landfill capacity accessible by transfer trailer from western Massachusetts to New York and Pennsylvania will become available over the next 20 years.  [page 6.86]
Barnes Aquifer Protection Advisory Committee: “Why Aquifers and Landfills Don’t Mix”

Water Not Waste: Mayoral Debate on WGGB channel 40 (10/20/09)
Michael Bardsley stated, “I don’t think that we should have an expansion unless we can guarantee the health and safety of the residents living near there and also the environment.” He also added that the City will probably have to close the landfill as the expansion would not be completed before the current landfill would reach capacity. This he said would provide “Northampton an opportunity to change our habits in the way that we deal with our trash.”