Cold Spring Village Board Re-Opens Garbage and Recycling Debate

Also gets half-year fiscal review 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong 

The Cold Spring Village Board this week began debating the best way to take out the garbage: Whether it’s more cost-effective for the village to continue handling refuse and recycling collection itself or to “outsource” the chore. The subject came up Tuesday night (Dec. 13) at the formal monthly meeting, at which the board also got an overview of the village’s finances six months into the 2011-12 fiscal year and touched on the question of revamping the health care program for village employees and retirees.

To address costs of garbage collection and recycling, Trustee Airinhos Serradas recommended that the village consider an alternative to the current system, which relies on the Cold Spring Highway Department to handle collection of garbage (ultimately disposed of through a contract with Wheelabrator, a waste-to-energy facility near Peekskill) and recycling. “We owe it to the taxpayers to explore options,” he said. About 18 months ago, after research by Cold Spring and Town of Philipstown officials, the village altered its recycling operations and instead of paying a private hauler to remove recyclables – paper, plastic, and glass – now not only collects them but trucks them to a processor, which pays $25 a ton for them. Philipstown’s government similarly revised its approach to recycling to save money.

 Serradas compared the Cold Spring method to that of Nelsonville, which uses a private company to collect its garbage and recycling. Nelsonville pays $57,700 annually for the service, he said. By contrast, he maintained, Cold Spring pays $197,520 for garbage and recycling. He advised the village government to issue requests for proposals, RFPs, from haulers to “explore the possibilities and see what’s out there.” Serradas praised the overall work of the Highway Department and in advocating such a change said that “I’m not proposing to eliminate anyone” from its ranks.

Mayor Seth Gallagher took issue with both the notion of outsourcing and Serradas’ math. Cold Spring’s population is at least three times that of Nelsonville, he pointed out. He pegged Cold Spring’s total garbage and recycling costs at about $120,000.  “I guess we can talk about it,” he said of Serradas’ proposal. “But there has to be some remote possibility that it would save us money.” Otherwise, seeking RFPs and bids becomes “a complete waste of time,” he said.

For garbage and recycling in the current fiscal year (June 1, 2011 to May 31, 2012) the village budgeted $116,000 but now projects spending $122,377. In fiscal 2010-11, it spent $118,346. If Nelsonville pays $57,700 for garbage and recycling collection for its 254 households, the cost per household is $227.16 – to put it in simple terms. For Cold Spring, which collects from 776 of its 910 households (since the Forge Gate and Chestnut Ridge apartment complexes use private haulage), at $227.16 apiece the total annual garbage-recycling cost to Cold Spring would be $176,276.16 -– and the village would  get nothing from sale of recycling. According to information on the latest Cold Spring budget spreadsheet, the village has earned an average of $452 monthly so far this year from selling recycling. After several minutes of verbal sparring, Serradas suggested, and Gallagher agreed, that the board would discuss the issue further at its Dec. 20 workshop.

Health care concerns
Village officials also have been reviewing costs of staff and retiree health care, an initiative championed by Serradas, who Tuesday lashed out at unidentified critics. “It’s childish and preposterous that anyone would promote the rumor that I would want to take away health insurance benefits from any employee,” he said. “The village is doing what it can to ensure that it can continue to run efficiently and continue to provide quality health care to its employees and retirees.” Likewise, he said, “I am not asking employees to contribute more than what is being contributed now. You can continue to contribute the 1 percent of your salary.” He encouraged those with questions to forward them to the village clerk.

Fiscal outlook
As the meeting opened, Village Accountant Ellen Mageean presented the six-month review, noting that by May 31 “the majority of our [budget] lines, we anticipate, will be fully spent.” On the expense side, she said, the village foresees spending about $8,000 more in police salaries and $5,000 more in contracted garbage expenses than expected. However, medical insurance should be $5,000 less than anticipated, she added. All in all, “it’s a very tight budget,” she concluded.

The mayor observed that “for a few years running, we had good overages [surpluses].” This year, “it’s getting very close, what we actually need to spend and what we budget.”

“Which is really where we should be,” Mageean commented. “We should be at the point where we’re spending what we budget.”

Tour boat visits, parking waivers, and fire inspections
Capt. John Panzella of the River Rose riverboat floated an idea for bringing visitors to and from Cold Spring by water once a month. As he outlined it, passengers boarding at Newburgh would cross the Hudson to Cold Spring and spend a few hours shopping, dining, and exploring. Meanwhile, the River Rose would take passengers boarding at Cold Spring for a ride, before returning to pick up the original passengers and taking them back to Newburgh. “I’m a dreamer and I love my boat. And I love Cold Spring,” said Panzella, who has periodically brought the River Rose to the village for special excursions. “This will be a lot of fun.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” Trustee J. Ralph Falloon responded.

The mayor urged Panzella to file a formal application “and we’ll go from there.”

The board also:

  • Approved nine parking waivers, at $250 each, to allow a landlord to accommodate a client creating new office space on Main Street. Waivers allow small businesses to get out from under the village code obligation to provide parking spaces.
  • Heard Building Inspector Bill Bujarski report that fire safety inspections of business premises are underway, a routine, state-mandated practice relatively new to Cold Spring.

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