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Recycling Troy

County Waste sees potential in a long-abandoned brownfield site, and wants a little help from the IDA

As early as this December, County Waste, the private Clifton Park-based waste and recyclables hauler, could begin pouring the foundation for its new 70,000-square-foot building at the old King Fuels and Por-Tec site in South Troy. County Waste would use the building to consolidate its regionwide recyclables processing operations.

County Waste was in the process of purchasing a building at the Port of Albany when the company was approached by officials from the city of Troy. According to County Waste’s Rob Benson, it wasn’t until the city reached out to the company with a pitch to locate their new facility in South Troy that County Waste had considered the option.

Benson told the members of the Troy Industrial Development Authority that his company was attracted to the brownfield site in South Troy almost immediately, due to its easy access to I-787 across the Troy-Menands Bridge, as well as easy access to the river and railway. Plus, building in South Troy, rather than moving into an already existing space in Albany, would give the company the opportunity to create a structure around the heavy industrial equipment that they use to process and package the recyclables.

When asked for details into the original negotiations between the city and County Waste, Jeff Buell, Troy’s director of public information, said that the city would rather not discuss the issue. “The deal to move County Waste to Troy is not yet complete and at this time we do not want to jeopardize the possibility of $15 million in 60 new jobs in the city of Troy. We’ll reserve the right to comment until we are a little further down the road.”

It is a tricky time for County Waste. The large waste-management company, which serves 16 counties and more than 150,000 customers, was raided this summer by state authorities who were acting on a whistleblower tip that the company had defrauded the town of Colonie out of $15 million. Earlier this year, the company was fined $10,000 by the Department of Environmental Conservation for illegally dumping waste at its current Troy location.

Benson did not return a call for interview.

And now, with the economic downturn, the recycling business has taken a severe hit. According to Benson, who spoke before the Troy IDA board last week at its early-morning meeting at Troy City Hall in hopes of receiving economic incentives to build in Troy, there is no profit to be made at the moment in the sale of processed recycling materials, such as plastic, metal, glass, and paper.

“When we first performed pro-forma for this project, the market for secondary materials . . . was fairly robust,” Benson said. Over the past two months, the price of all commodities has plummeted. “Worldwide demand for materials has plummeted. So we have to vastly rework our map of this project.”

In fact, he said, Sprint Recycling, one of the largest and oldest recyclables hauling companies in New York City, which worked the five boroughs for 35 years, is now out of business.

“Having said that,” Benson continued, “not only are we interested in describing this project to you folks, we would also like to hear . . . the types of benefits and subsidies that might be available that we could use to develop this project.”

Those types of benefits, according to Sondra Little, the executive director of the IDA, said would come in the form of a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT. There would be no real property tax assessed on the building or site, Little said. Instead, County Waste would make payments back to the IDA.

Little said the IDA is very particular about the companies it will enter into contracts with. This year, the IDA has entered into only two such deals. However, she said, members of her board are taking very seriously the proposal for County Waste.

“We want to make sure that it is a company that is dedicated to the city,” she said. “And we really want to make sure that the company has demonstrated a certain level of commitment.”

“We are very selective,” she said. The incentives that the IDA can offer are “very significant. These tax structures last anywhere from 10 to 20 years.”

County Waste has spent nearly $10 million at the site, to date. “They have completely paved the site,” Little said. “They are finishing some construction projects.”

The IDA put a notice in The Record, as required by law, announcing that it would hold a public hearing in early December, to discuss the possibility of entering into a negotiated tax payment with County Waste.

Once operational, County Waste plans to operate the facility from 7 AM to 10 PM, hauling roughly 900 tons of recyclables into South Troy daily. The recyclables will be processed and packaged for sale within the enclosed facility and shipped out to markets throughout the country, in Canada, and overseas. Benson said that the height of the daily traffic would be from 10 AM to 2 PM. This has some residents in South Troy concerned. The Troy-Menands Bridge is notoriously congested, as it acts as the main inlet for Hudson Valley Community College and most of South Troy.

Russ Reeves, Troy’s city engineer and member of the Troy Planning Board, said that everyone involved in the County Waste proposal is aware of the traffic realities on the Troy-Menands Bridge and at the intersection of Burden Avenue and Mill Street, the entrance to County’s Waste’s current facility. He said that the city is working with the Department of Transportation to rework the roadway to create a better flow of traffic, which, in the long run, would include the construction of a roundabout.

“Based on what we have seen so far, they have provided a thorough environmental engineering package,” Reeves said, adding that he expects the Planning Board to approve the company’s proposal at the next meeting.

—Chet Hardin

chardin@metroland.net

On Nov. 18, County Waste will go before the Planning Board. The meeting will be held at 6 PM in the council chambers at Troy City Hall and is open to the public.


What a Week

Check the Record

The nastiness between local police union Council 82 and Albany County District Attorney David Soares became more public last week when Soares wrote a letter to local law-enforcement agencies addressing the actions of Christian Mesley, president of Council 82, and James Lyman, executive director of Council 82. In the letter, Soares accused Mesley and Lyman of misleading the public and their own union members about his record as district attorney. Lyman and Mesley supported Soares’ opponent, Republican Roger Cusick, and two days before the election, the pair led a protest in front of Soares’ home in Delmar. “I am disturbed by their willingness to distort the facts about my office’s involvement in the handling of a recent case despite the fact that they knew my office was not responsible for that prosecution because of legal and ethical obligations,” read Soares’ letter. Soares had recused himself from the case, which involved Albany police shooting an allegedly armed man. In a recent Times Union article, local police officers said they felt Lyman’s and Mesley’s tactics were over the top and not reflective of the relationship between most of the police force and the district attorney’s office.

DeClyned

Albany County Legislator Christopher Higgins (D-District 6) had an op-ed piece published in the Times Union that called on the county legislature to take the time to review the qualifications and job performance of Democratic election commissioner Matthew Clyne. During a September meeting of the Albany Democratic Committee, Higgins had called for Clyne’s reappointment to be tabled so that a review could take place; that motion was defeated. Higgins’ op-ed came in the wake of a number of very public mistakes made by Clyne and the board of elections regarding absentee ballots during this year’s election.

Greener Pastures

Albany City Comptroller Tom Nitido stepped down this week to take a position as assistant comptroller of the Retirement Compliance Unit for the state and local retirement system. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said, “Tom Nitido has a proven track record of protecting taxpayer resources and increasing operating efficiencies.” Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings can appoint someone to fill the vacancy left by Nitido, and the position will be up for election in 2009.




Stonewalling the Majority?

New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz uses caucus threat as leverage to quash marriage equality

On Election Day, Democrats in New York state gained a momentous win, taking the majority in the Senate for the first time since the 1960s. That means the Democrats now control the Assembly, Senate, and governor’s office. Former Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith is now in line to be the new majority leader, which would make him one of the three most powerful men in the state, right behind Gov. David Paterson and right ahead of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). Of course, this shift of power is causing a lot of consternation, hand-wringing, speculating, and scheming at the Capitol.

Last week, four Senate Democrats announced that they might choose not to caucus with the Democratic majority, which would mean that the Democrats would say good-bye to holding the majority, and Smith would say good-bye to being the majority leader. These four Democrats, all from downstate, are using this threat as leverage. Leverage to, perhaps, receive choice committee chairmanships, or state funding for key projects in their districts, or, in the case of Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, for unilateral influence over legislation.

On Tuesday, Diaz issued his demand of Smith: Take same-sex-marriage legislation off the table, or else. Diaz, a longtime vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, is trying to force Smith to stymie any effort to move legislation allowing the issue onto the Senate’s agenda.

Smith, according to reports, has said that same-sex marriage is not a priority for him.

—Chet Hardin



Loose Ends

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