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Dump the bonding: (l-r) Councilmen Dominick Calsolaro and Corey Ellis criticize the plan to expand the Rapp Road landfill.

Photo: Chet Hardin

Dump It on the Residents

Albany councilmen slam “hidden tax” in latest opposition to landfill expansion

Albany Common Councilman Dominick Calsolaro (Ward 1) spoke out Tuesday against what he calls a hidden tax on Albany residents as part of the impending expansion of the Rapp Road landfill in the Pine Bush Preserve.

As part of the Rapp Road expansion permit, the Department of Environmental Conservation requires a $10 per-ton fee to be set aside for habitat restoration for the Pine Bush. Rather than charging this fee to haulers, the city plans to use 30-year bonds to pay for the fees, which, according to Calsolaro, will total between $15 and $18 million.

“Any Common Council member that votes for the bonding, I will send a letter to every one of their constituents—paid for out of my pocket—to let them know that their Common Council member approved a hidden tax on city of Albany residents,” Calsolaro said at a press conference Tuesday alongside fellow councilman and mayoral candidate Corey Ellis (Ward 3).

“By bonding, the city is now saying that every one of those $10 fees is going to be paid by the city taxpayers in Albany, because it’s a city bond,” Calsolaro said. “It’s not going to be charged to Allied Waste, a multi-billion dollar, multinational company that’s dumping their garbage in Albany. It’s not going to be paid by any other of the municipalities who are dumping their garbage in Albany. It’s going to be paid by the Albany city residents, who only produce between 8 and 10 percent of the waste that goes into the landfill.”

“We will have to pay that money back someday,” Ellis said, “with interest, for at least 25 years. The taxpayers do not deserve that.”

Calsolaro also expressed concerns that the 30-year bonding may be illegal.

“I could not find any language in the local finance laws that allows 30-year bonds for landfills,” he said, “so I think this may be in violation of the local finance law.”

It is estimated the expansion will extend the life of the landfill for another seven years, leaving city residents burdened by the bonds for 23 years after the landfill’s anticipated closing.

This announcement comes after weeks of public protests and public figures speaking out against the expansion of the dump. Activist group Save the Pine Bush has held multiple protests outside the Department of Environmental Conservation building and Albany City Hall, Ellis has called for a comprehensive audit for the landfill, and many other politicians have voiced their concerns about the environmental impacts of expanding the landfill into the Pine Bush Preserve.

“The city has derived income from the landfill, income that paid for city expenses. But it was done in a shortsighted manner,” wrote mayoral candidate Shawn Morris in her blog, shawnmorris.metroland.net. “So now, instead of planning for the next level of waste management, we are faced with the current no-win situation, for which the Mayor is responsible: choosing between financial solvency or expanding a landfill in an environmentally fragile area.”

Grace Nichols of Save the Pine Bush expressed concern that the costly habitat restoration may not even be effective in offsetting damage done to the Pine Bush.

“I am concerned that the plan to transport ‘Pine Bush sand’ from as far away as Queensbury and place it on top of a plastic cap and a clay layer on top of a landfill, is just not something whose success we can predict,” she wrote in a statement based on comments sent to DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. “Two feet of sand cannot support stable tree life.”

Instead, Nichols feels that the $15 to 18 million in costs for the habitat restoration should be spent buying land in the Pine Bush for preservation.

Calsolaro and Ellis both said that they plan to oppose the bonding to pay for the $10 per-ton fee, and with his threat to send letters to constituents, Calsolaro is encouraging other council members to do the same. Instead, he suggests that the fee be imposed on haulers, which Calsolaro said is what the DEC intended.

“The city will pay its $10 for the 8 percent that we bring in,” he said, “but we don’t want to pay the fee for the other 92 percent.”

Calsolaro has asked the DEC to investigate the city’s plan, and is requesting that it amend the permit to require “full-cost accounting” of landfill management to determine the true cost of the landfill to the city.

—Cecelia Martinez


What a Week

 




Fighting—and Suing—City Hall

Foreclosure attempts by the city of Troy lead to a $2 million lawsuit

The legal battles over the old Marshall Ray building at 701 River St. in North Troy escalated last week when Michael Kitner and his wife, Helen Mlock, served the city of Troy a $2 million lawsuit alleging that it has repeatedly violated his rights.

“It is to get their attention,” Kitner said of filing the suit. I have had enough of my civil rights stepped on, so I did what my lawyers told to do. The city thinks that they can do whatever they want. They can grab whatever possessions they want. They can use my property however they please. It is like there is nothing I can do, it seems.”

The city has no comment on the litigation, according to city spokesman Jeff Pirro.

The suit alleges that the city has taken Kitner’s property, trespassed on Kitner’s property, illegally stored city docks on the property behind the building, which is owned by Kitner’s wife, and denied Kitner due process by padlocking the building and removing his tenants’ private property from the premises.

His tenants, John and Emmet Murphy, also have filed suit against the city, claiming the Department of Public Works illegally removed their property from the building.

The city at one point claimed that Kitner owed “something short of $300,000 in taxes,” and foreclosed on his property, wrongly, Kitner said. This foreclosure was recently vacated by Rensselaer County Supreme Court Judge Christian Hummel.

The city has yet to return the deed for the building to Kitner, he said, and has started a new foreclosure action against him for $33,000, “which covers the 2008 and 2009 bills I never got, including the period of time the city had the building in the foreclosure, plus 2007, when I sent them the money but they sent it back to me.”

According to Kitner, the city has been seeking to collect on money from the balance of a bankruptcy agreement. Kitner said that the city started foreclosing on him in 2005 over the $90,000 bankruptcy agreement that he says he was paying off. “I have acknowledged that I owe the balance, but based on the terms of the agreement. They just pretend that the agreement never happened.”

The bankruptcy agreement stems from his original purchase of the Marshall Ray building.

Now, Kitner said the building is falling into disrepair. He refuses to spend any more money to perform maintenance, such as mending the roof or repairing brick, because he doesn’t know if he will be able to win against the city.

“I can’t protect my building,” Kitner said. “I can’t go and repair my roof with these constant threats against me.”

—Chet Hardin

chardin@metroland.net



Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-



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