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Praise, tirades at Modern proposal hearing

by jmaloni
Sat, Oct 30th 2010 01:00 pm
by Terry Duffy

Area residents, be they Modern supporters or opponents, came to Lewiston Town Hall in droves Monday to hear Modern's latest proposal before the Lewiston Town Board.

Modern COO and Vice President Gary Smith opened the session, which according to the Town Board agenda was only intended to run one-half hour. It didn't exactly go that way.

Smith's PowerPoint presentation discussed amending Modern's Host Community Agreement and local Law 24C-2, last updated in 1995 and covering waste disposal and landfills. Before him were dozens of attendees who filled the board meeting room to capacity and spilled out into the foyer and parking lot. And reactions varied.

As discussed in the Sentinel last weekend, key points call for an additional 150,000 tons per year of landfill waste, a new 100,000-ton per year organic waste composing facility and a direct discharge access to the Lewiston Water Pollution Control Center on Pletcher Road for leachate disposal.

In return, Modern would:

  • Increase tipping fees by $222,450 per year to the town to cover the additional 150,000 landfill tons per year and schedule the landfill to close years sooner;
  • Provide a projected $80,500 in tipping fees annually from the organic waste operations, based on current recycling rates. If those rates increase, the tipping fees would rise accordingly;
  • Provide a projected $300,000 per year in new revenue from the leachate disposal at the Lewiston WPCC;
  • Provide an additional $18,000 to the town from increases in the Waste Price Index due to the increased tonnage rate; and
  • Provide for a number of one-time benefits, including $20,000 in improvements at Washuta Park for new restrooms; amending the Washuta Park lease to allow for construction of a second baseball diamond; donate construction towards the building of a season ice rink at Academy Park; and supporting Lewiston's efforts should it pursue acquisition of Joseph Davis State Park.

Total benefits to the town would be $621,000 per year in new revenues or $6.2 million over the next 10 years.

Smith told attendees that Modern has been working with the town on the new proposal following its last one presented in 2007 that spurred criticisms. "We heard it, we understand it, we got it," said Smith of Modern's response to community feedback back then that focused on truck traffic complaints.

As a result, Modern restructured operations, opened a new truck terminal in Buffalo and relocated fleets of trucks to that facility; it went to single stream recycling pickups which basically consolidates the recycling process, and opened a new single stream recycling center in Buffalo. "We minimized traffic (coming into Lewiston) by 100 different trips," said Smith of Modern's new Elk Street truck terminal in Buffalo. Pointing to Modern's new Hopkins Street recycling center, Smith told the crowd, "Recycling trucks are here versus Lewiston."

He told the crowd that even with the proposed increases, actual trucks coming into to Lewiston would amount to roughly 70 fewer per day than in 2007. "We heard what you said; we did something about it," said Smith.

He closed by pointing to the numerous examples of Modern's decades-long benefits to the community and said that will continue.

From there, the session, which ultimately went on for nearly two hours, moved to comments that saw reactions both in support of Modern and its proposal, and decidedly against. A total of 25 spoke, with opponents outnumbering supporters, narrowly by a measure of 12 in favor to 13 against, but seemingly much greater in the intensity of negatives and in the subsequent reactions by many in the crowd. Responses included:

  • George Osborne, president of Artpark and Co., who praised Modern's support and how the company has benefited Artpark operations -- including its many children's programs and Artpark Tuesdays. "Modern's support has kept these viable," said Osborne.
  • Keith Fox, former Lewiston-Porter School Board president, and current member of the Lewiston Environmental Commission and Modern Citizens Action Committee, who spoke out against the proposal, and cited what he called "hidden concerns." Included were State Environmental Quality Review procedures not being followed, the Environmental Commission members not having an opportunity to review it, and questions over leachate treatments and their impact on the town. "The proposed changes must be tabled at this time until these concerns are addressed," said Fox.
  • Village of Lewiston resident Ron LaDucca, active for a number of years with Lewiston youth baseball, who praised Modern's long-term and wide ranging support of children's recreational programs in the community.
  • Bill Waters, CAC member, who said that while he was viewing the Modern proposal "with an open mind" and praised Modern's environmental efforts, he also had questions over its business practices, criticized Canadian garbage imports coming to Lewiston, and had concerns on Modern's timetables on closure and payouts. "Come on, Modern, let's improve our relations with our host agreements," said Smith.
  • Sanborn resident RoseMary Warren, who blasted Town Supervisor Steve Reiter and the Town Board's handling of the whole procedure and asked if money was worth more than the impact of garbage. Warren called the session "the worst public hearing she has ever seen" to a host of applause.
  • Vince DiMarco, CAC chair, who hit on Modern's expansions to accept waste from more New York state communities, Canada and from out of state over the years at the expense of Lewiston. "Modern has gone beyond its own agreements by accepting more waste," said DiMarco. He called the latest proposal "a sweetheart deal for Modern" and called Modern "a corporation engaged to profit," to more applause.
  • Gary Townsend of the Sanborn-Lewiston Farm Museum, who praised Modern's support "for all they have done. "I support Gary, Modern and thank them all," said Townsend.
  • Mountain View Drive resident Janet Dimet, a 48-year resident, who commented that Lewiston's beauty and quality of life, coupled with thousands of garbage trucks are, "fundamentally opposed ideas."

"Are we going to bring in more and more of other people's garbage? Most would say an empathic ‘no,' "  said Dimet.

  • River Road resident Charles Lytle, who spoke for Lytle Investments, which handles various financial services on behalf of Modern and its employees. "Modern takes care of its employees and contributes a substantial amount to our tax base," said Lytle, telling the board Modern is good for the community.
  • Youngstown resident John Battalia, a solid waste engineer, who praised Modern's innovations in building and maintaining its facilities. He called Modern's proposals for managing the landfill organics and leachate "an opportunity for Modern to show leadership. I support them," he said.
  • Lewiston resident Amy Witryol, who argued the Modern proposal is loaded with conflicts of interest, from town attorney involvement to potential impacts on the town's stance with expansion proposals by CWM Chemical Services. She went on to urge the Town Board to table the proposal, saying there were "too many questions."
  • Ridge Road resident Patricia Shultz, who sounded off about truck traffic. "People who don't live on a truck route are those supporting this. Try living on this route," she said. Shultz complained of constant truck traffic, garbage strewn around, the stench, and the negative impact on property values. She and others asked the board to consider these concerns.

The balance of the session featured similar comments, with Modern's assistance to the community praised and its impact on neighboring residents blasted. When it was all said and done, the Town Board went into executive session and announced it would not pursue a vote that night.

The board then announced that its engineering firm, Nussbaumer and Clark, would review all the SEQR-related concerns, the town would be retaining the services Damon Morey LLP as a consultant, and the board would share the proposal and related discussions with the Lewiston Environmental Commission and Modern CAC for their input.

The board is expected to discuss further and vote on the Modern proposal at a Nov. 4 session, which is the same night that a public hearing on the 2011 town budget takes place. The scheduled time for both is 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

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