SENECA FALLS — The Town Board, citing ongoing negotiations for a new host community benefits agreement with Seneca Meadows Landfill, agreed Tuesday to delay renewal of the landfill’s annual town permit.
Town Attorney Patrick Morrell advised the board to hold off on the renewal to see if a new host community benefits agreement with the landfill can be reached.
At the conclusion of regular board business, board members went into executive session to discuss “potential or pending litigation” and the agreement. Invited in were an attorney for the Boylan Code law firm, hired by the town for landfill matters, and consulting engineer John Condino.
Earlier, the board heard long-time town resident Sandra Garee oppose a renewal of the landfill permit.
Garee also urged the board to pass Local Law No. 7, introduced earlier this year and subject of a public hearing Sept. 28. The local law would prohibit solid waste disposal facilities in the town unless the sponsor has a current, valid state operating permit.
Seneca Meadows has a state permit that expires Oct. 10, 2017. The company has asked for a 10-year renewal of that permit.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is discussing the renewal request with landfill officials and expects to announce this fall a date or dates for public hearings on the application.
If the local law is passed and the landfill does nor receive a renewal by Oct. 10 of next year, the town could shut down the landfill, the largest in the state.
“People in the Finger Lakes have had enough of this growing mountain of trash and trucks on our roads, compromising the quality of life,” Garee said.
“It’s time to end it,” she said, saying it’s less about money and more about a better future for the town’s children and grandchildren.
She was critical of Supervisor Greg Lazzaro and board member Vic Porretta for “patronizing” the landfill, while praising board members David DeLelys, Annette Lutz and Mary Sarratori for voting to schedule a public hearing on the local law.
Her son, Kenneth Garee, also of Seneca Falls, also issued a harsh critique of the landfill and town officials who he feels are not supporting the people’s desire to see the landfill close as soon as possible.
He presented a petition with 620 signatures, along with 242 emails, urging that the local law be enacted.
He specifically criticized Lazzaro and Morrell. He accused them of not acting in the best interests of the community.
That prompted a rebuke from Lazzaro, who said speakers should not “demean people or incite people.” He said respectful differences are okay, but not personal attacks.
Allison Stokes of Rochester, formerly of Seneca Falls, said if Hillary Clinton is elected President as the first woman to hold that office, that could mean a huge increase in tourism in Seneca Falls, the Birthplace of the Women’s Rights movement because of the first-ever women’s rights convention in July 1848.
She said ever since Clinton mentioned Seneca Falls earlier in her campaign, the Women’s Rights National Historical Park here has seen a doubling of visitors.
“If she is elected President, the impact on Seneca Falls could be significant. It would be a direct line from Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s call for women’s suffrage to Hillary Clinton’s election as President,” she said.
“There is a lot of talk of Seneca Falls being the place for her Presidential library, should she be President. That would mean a huge opportunity for tourism and business,” Stokes said.
“What we do locally matters. History is not over. It’s still being made and decisions made here impact the national identity of Seneca Falls,” she said.
Stokes urged the board not to support a 10-year extension of the landfill’s current operating permit.
Linda Ochs of Waterloo also urged approval of Local Law 7. “It is not in the best interests of Seneca Falls or the Finger Lakes for this landfill to continue,” she said.
She said despite the glossy printed fliers sent to area residents by the landfill, warning of financial woes if the landfill closes early, Ochs said the landfill’s host benefits payments only affect town taxes, not school or county taxes.
“Seneca Falls will survive its closing. Other businesses will come here. Life will be better if the landfill comes to an end,” she concluded.
Seneca Meadows employees and supporters, many wearing yellow safety vests, occupied most of the chairs at the meeting. No one from the landfill spoke. A few people held signs opposing the landfill.