ELLERY - When it comes to the landfill, both candidates for county executive say they have the best interests of county residents at heart.
Looking at the landfill, which is located in the town of Ellery, Ron Johnson said he would like to operate the landfill with as little out-of-county waste as possible. Meanwhile, Vince Horrigan sees a benefit in out-of-county waste.
"Many people do not know that the County Landfill and the three transfer stations pay for themselves. Not one nickel of county taxes go to run the county solid waste system," Johnson said. "Certainly a Ron Johnson administration will explore new and better ways to deal with the solid waste generated by our homes, businesses and factories here in Chautauqua County. As a businessman, I am committed to continuous improvement in all county operations."
On the other hand, Horrigan said the landfill nets more than $1.5 million per year for the taxpayers, which he and Johnson both pointed out includes electrical power generation from the methane gas renewable energy plant.
"Out-of-county waste operations provide a $2.5 million source of revenue annually which benefits all county residents and businesses in the form of lower garbage and trash rates and a lower property tax levy," Horrigan said. "As part of our budget review process we will be looking at the landfill financials and projections to evaluate all aspects of the enterprise fund which supports county operations."
"I have also spoken with our chairman of the legislature about reinstating an environmental committee to specifically address landfill, brine, water quality and other environmental issues," Horrigan added.
Horrigan said he has conducted five public forums with area residents, Gerry and Ellery town elected leaders, DEC inspectors and county landfill managers over the last year. In that time, he said he has looked into residential concerns and complaints, DEC inspection results, concerns from the town, landfill management practices and expansion plants. He said the perspective of residents has also been reviewed.
"Because the four issues of odor, litter, traffic, and erosion were resolved, and because the attendance of the public had diminished to one individual - who complemented the landfill operators - it was decided, in conjunction with Ellery town officials, that we should suspend the forums unless a future situation developed that made the forums necessary again," Horrigan said. "Three specific new actions did result from these discussions which were a lowering of the speed limit on the Bemus-Ellery road, the rerouting of early morning truck traffic headed to the landfill, and new schedules and routes for County Jail litter patrols."
After that point, Horrigan said the focus of the landfill turned to cell expansion plans in order for the landfill to remain viable beyond the next four years. An environmental engineering firm is contracted to conduct a second review of the landfill cell expansion project, which included a survey mailed to town of Ellery residents.
"Pending the new information and data that will be available this fall, I am satisfied that the County Landfill is properly operated, supervised and inspected IAW strict DEC criteria," Horrigan said. "The landfill is a reality that exists because we generate garbage and other waste products. Recycling is clearly a significant step that each of us can do to reduce the amount of waste that we generate. I encourage every resident and municipality to make recycling a routine way of life. Where possible, zero-sort recycling should be considered for ease of recycling."
Johnson also believes the landfill is not likely to go anywhere soon.
"No matter how many innovations we implement, however, all of our residents, businesses and industries will still depend on the County Landfill for years to come," Johnson said. "The people of Chautauqua County can count on a Ron Johnson administration to continue to run their County Solid Waste System in the best interests of the entire county."
Horrigan, too, said he will keep the best interests of taxpayers foremost in his decision making.
"This includes a business approach to county government as well as the impact on the surrounding residents and the protection of the environment," Horrigan said. "Furthermore, I will continue to sit down with Ellery town officials to look at the specific impact of the cell expansion at the County Landfill. From that discussion I will determine what should be done to address any unresolved issues. As my county legislator record shows, I will always engage our local elected leaders to address their concerns and build teamwork through compromise wherever possible."