Long Term Planning

Last Updated: November 3, 2023

Long Term Strategic Planning for the Madison County Solid Waste Management System

In 2021, the Madison County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to hire an engineering firm, Cornerstone Engineering and Geology, PLLC (Cornerstone), to study the long-term sustainability of the Madison County landfill operations as they currently stand. Madison County is concerned about the financial viability of the current operations, as the County does not want the ever increasing disposal fees to financially burden our community.  Cornerstone was tasked with assessing the current system and evaluating alternatives that may improve the long-term financial sustainability of the solid waste management system.  Cornerstone released a final report of their findings and recommendations in February 2023. In order to keep exploring the options recommended by Cornerstone, Madison County issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to Lease and Operate Madison County’s Solid Waste Management Facilities (public-private partnership). A draft of the RFP was released on May 24, 2023. A final RFP was issued in late August and proposals were received on October 18, 2023.  Currently a committee and members of the Board of Supervisors are reviewing the proposals.  

What are some of the challenges that Madison County is facing and why are alternatives being evaluated?

The Madison County Solid Waste Department does not receive any revenue from taxes; instead it is run as an enterprise fund (funded by residential and commercial disposal fees).  Waste disposal fees must be sufficient to support the entirety of the solid waste management system, including landfill operations, recycling, the convenience of transfer stations, special programs, capital expenses, and future liabilities.

The primary challenge is the small scale of Madison County’s operations, and inability to achieve sufficient economies of scale.  While the Madison County Landfill capacity has many years of remaining life, it is among the smallest operating landfills in New York State. It is subject to the same regulations as landfills much larger, and the equipment needs are similar. The same is true for the transfer stations and Material Recovery Facility (which processes recyclables), as well.  In other words, the amount of waste that is generated within Madison County is not enough to financially sustain operations without increasing costs significantly to residents and businesses.

While it’s probably not a surprise that the costs of operating the solid waste system have increased substantially in recent years, what may be surprising is that even more costs are anticipated in the next five years due to New York State’s regulatory trajectory. While it’s paramount to continue Madison County’s successful solid waste management system, it’s equally important that the County evaluate all options that could help minimize or stabilize the cost of services for County residents and businesses. Changes, whatever those may be, need to be considered.  

What were the findings of the Cornerstone report and why is the County releasing a RFP?

The final report of the study was released in February 2023 and is available to the public. The Cornerstone report supported what the County already knew, that the current waste disposal fees are not sufficiently covering the costs of operations, capital expenses, and long-term management of the landfill. If the County does not make changes to the current system, waste disposal fees will have to increase to fully fund the program’s annual costs, as well as the future responsibilities of landfill closure and post-closure monitoring.

Cornerstone evaluated three different options to improve the long-term financial viability of the Solid Waste Department: 1) status quo, with the implementation of some efficiency measures, such as closing some of the transfer stations and beginning to charge a fee for recyclables; 2) a public-private partnership for operation and maintenance of the Madison County Landfill; and 3) closure of the Madison County Landfill and construction of a transfer station to send waste elsewhere.

The option to close the landfill was ruled out, as it does not achieve the ultimate goal of long-term financial stability and sustainability. While the status quo option offered some opportunities for cost reductions, it would require the closure of transfer stations and changes to the recycling system. Ultimately, the Board of Supervisors have determined that the public-private partnership option where Madison County continues to own the landfill and partners with a private landfill operator seems to provide the best opportunity to achieve the long-term goal of financial stability and sustainability. To continue evaluating the opportunities associated with this alternative, the Board agreed to issue a Request for Proposals to Lease and Operate Madison County’s Solid Waste Management Facilities. A draft of the RFP was issued on May 24, 2023 and the Final RFP was released on August 23, 2023.  Proposals were due in and received on October 18, 2023, the Board of Supervisors and Committee are currently reviewing the proposals and options.

What decisions have been made at this time and what does the timeline look like?

Madison County received several proposals in response to the RFP put out in August for Lease and Operate the Madison County’s Solid Waste Management Facility (public-private partnership).  The Proposals will provide additional information about the risks and benefits of a Public-Private Partnership. At this time nothing has been decided.  The County has put together a committee that includes members of the Board of Supervisors to review these proposals.  The Committee is taking into consideration many factors as they make this decision that will impact everyone in our community.  Some of those factors are cost savings to our residents, future of the transfer stations and recycling center, employee retention, increase in tonnage, road traffic, impact on neighboring landowners, long term liabilities and financial impact for the County.  We know the residents have a lot of questions, and the committee is currently doing its due diligence to ask those questions and consider all options.  Please be patient with us. 

    General Timeline (tentative dates):

  • Wednesday, May 24, 2023: Issued Draft RFP for 60 days (Completed )
  • Mid to Late July: Presentations to the Community (Completed )
  • Wednesday, August 23, 2023: Issue Final RFP (Completed )
  • Mid October: Proposals Due (Completed )
  • Mid October and beyond: Evaluate submitted proposals (In Progress)

For the calendar year 2023, no changes to the current solid waste management system are anticipated.

 What is the future of the Madison County transfer stations? 

Madison County Solid Waste currently runs four transfer stations across the County.  The transfer stations offer convenience to residents to dispose of their household garbage and recycling if they do not use a private hauler. The Cornerstone study reinforces what the County already knew, that the transfer stations are not covering their operational costs alone and are being subsidized by landfill disposal fees.  The question is, how does the County continue to provide the transfer station program, without significantly raising punch card and/or landfill disposal fees?  At this time nothing has been decided on the future of the transfer stations. The Board knows how important the transfer stations are to its residents. The County is optimistic that a public-private partnership may provide opportunities to continue offering the convenient drop-off services that residents currently enjoy and appreciate.

When will residents learn more?

The County hosted informational sessions on the Long Term Planning throughout July 2023. The meetings were held in the Towns of Lincoln, Hamilton, Cazenovia and Sullivan. You can view the presentation slides here.

  • Tuesday, July 11 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Town of Lincoln Town Hall (6886 Tuttle Rd, Canastota)
  • Monday, July 17 from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM at the Hamilton Public Library (13 Broad St, Hamilton)
  • Tuesday, July 25 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Sullivan Free Library - Chittenango (101 Falls Blvd, Chittenango)
  • Tuesday, August 1 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Cazenovia Public Library (100 Albany St, Cazenovia)

The County is dedicated to keeping our residents engaged in the process and anticipates future meetings once more information is gathered from the RFP proposals.  This webpage focuses on the long-term strategic planning and as more information becomes available, the page will be updated.  The final report of the Cornerstone study was released in February 2023 and is available to the public. The meeting minutes from when the initial findings were presented to the Solid Waste Committee are uploaded as well.   

I still don’t understand why we should be considering changing the current system, can you restate why?

The Madison County Board of Supervisors and Solid Waste Department are trying to plan for the future, to make sure that residents and businesses have a cost-effective solid waste management system for the next 25 years.  In order to sustain the operations as they currently exist, the punch card and waste disposal fees would need to be increased substantially, and then it is projected that there would be several more significant price hikes due to regulatory changes. The system is not currently supported by taxes, and the County is trying hard to ensure that fees remain reasonable for residents and businesses, while continuing to provide waste services that are environmentally friendly and critical to public health.

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