AUBURN — With the city's municipal landfill set to be completely closed by 2021, city staff members have been exploring options for the landfill's future.
Superintendent of Public Works Mike Talbot presented members of the Auburn City Council with 11 options during Thursday's council meeting. Four of the options involve expanding the landfill while the other seven explore closing it for good.
Expanding the landfill, Talbot said, would be cost prohibitive and subject the city to more stringent state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations. Ultimately, Talbot recommended what he feels are the best three options, all of which involve abandoning the concept of a city-owned landfill.
"I think the business of landfilling has probably outgrown our city," he said.
The first choice, referred to as option five, would set up a convenience station near the site of the current landfill. After collecting curbside trash, city workers would bring the waste to the convenience station, compact it, load it into large trailers and drive it to another landfill in either Seneca or Ontario counties. Residents would still be able to come to the landfill to dump their own trash. The convenience station would only be able to accept 50 tons of trash per day, totaling 12,500 tons each year, and will cost just over $1 million to construct.
"We would really need to think about how we would want to operate a convenience station and who would be allowed to dump there," Talbot said. "There would probably be no commercial customers. It would be all of our residents or Cayuga County residents."
Talbot also recommended a direct haul option, or option eight. City trash collectors would pick up curbside trash as regularly scheduled and then immediately drive it to a landfill. A convenience station is not included in this option, so residents would not have the option of dropping off their own trash. Option eight would allow for about 8,300 tons collected each year and would have no capital costs.
Option 11 is a combination of options five and eight. A convenience station would be available for citizens to drop off their own trash, but city garbage trucks would deliver all curbside collections directly to a neighboring landfill; they would not bring it back to the convenience station to compact. The only capital costs associate with this option would go toward constructing the convenience station, which will cost around $1 million. About 20,800 tons of trash could be collected every year.
Other non-expansion options included installing a regional transfer station, — which is similar to a convenience station but requires a DEC permit — privatizing the landfill, outsourcing city trash collection or discontinuing all city collection services.
The options that include a convenience station will still generate revenue for the city through tipping fees, Talbot said. Option eight would not generate any revenue. These three options do not impact trash collecting in the city, he said. Comptroller Laura Wills said these three options are the only ones that "have the ability to break even without significant cost increases" to city residents.
After hearing Talbot's presentation, council members requested that city staff further analyze the three options and extend the original Jan. 4 voting deadline so council can have more time to consider the choices. A public hearing for residents to give their input on the options will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday during the council meeting.
"We really encourage people to come comment on some of these options or what they would like to see," Talbot said. "Just keep in mind, like I said before, the landfilling business itself has probably outgrown our city."
A Sennett man who started a backyard fire that spread to an adjacent lumber yard in April has been fined $1,500, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
David J. Panek, 65, of Chestnut Ridge Road, was convicted of unlawful disposal of solid waste, a violation, on Nov. 15 in the Town of Sennett Court. He was fined $1,500 plus a $90 court surcharge.
Panek admitted to burning yard and household waste in his backyard on April 9, the DEC told The Citizen previously. Next door, hundreds of logs owned by Christopher Sandstrom of Cayuga Tree Service, Inc. caught fire after a wind spread the flames. Sandstrom had said his business suffered about $20,000 in damage.
More than a dozen fire departments worked into the following day to get the fire under control.
The DEC issued Panek an appearance ticket for two misdemeanor charges — conducting an open burn during a burn ban and burning non-exempt materials. He had also been charged with violation unlawful disposal of solid waste. The DEC said Tuesday that the violation satisfied the original charges.
With U.S. Rep. John Katko's support, the House of Representatives passed a $1.5 trillion tax plan Tuesday that will largely benefit corporations and wealthy individuals — the first major legislative victory for congressional Republicans since President Donald Trump took office in January.
The House passed the bill by a 227-203 vote. The Senate approved the measure by a 51-48 vote early Wednesday.
Katko, R-Camillus, said in an interview with The Citizen that the final bill is better than the House proposal he supported in November.
"It provides tax relief for the vast majority of my constituents, especially the working poor and the middle class in particular," he said. "But it also provides everyone with more job opportunities in central New York."
The tax plan will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit, but Republicans believe the gap will be erased by increased economic growth. The legislation revamps the tax brackets and lowers income tax rates for most Americans until 2026. The standard deduction will be doubled for single filers and married couples. But the personal exemption and several credits and deductions will be eliminated. Analysts say this could minimize the benefits of the tax plan for most individuals and families.
Some credits have been preserved. The child tax credit will increase from $1,000 to $2,000 and a new credit of $500 will provide $500 for each non-child dependent in a household.
A notable deduction has been retained. The state and local tax deduction was slashed in earlier proposals, but Republicans kept it in the final bill. There will be a $10,000 cap for those who deduct state and local income, property and sales taxes.
For businesses, the bill cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent — a top priority for Republicans. Katko said this could spur job growth in central New York.
The legislation also includes a 20 percent deduction for owners of pass-through businesses who report the income on their individual tax returns.
Katko said he urged House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady to preserve three provisions in the final bill that were either eliminated or modified in the House tax proposal.
The House plan called for ending the tax-exempt status for private activity bonds, eliminating the historic preservation tax credit and calculating tuition waivers for graduate students as taxable income. Katko said local officials, including Syracuse Mayor-elect Ben Walsh, expressed concern about these provisions.
The final bill maintains the tax-exempt status for private activity bonds and tuition waivers for graduate students won't be considered taxable income, which could have increased taxes for students by thousands of dollars. The historic preservation tax credit will be preserved, but the benefits will be paid out over a five-year period instead of one year.
To ensure the provisions were in the final bill, Katko said the corporate tax rate was increased to 21 percent. Initial proposals called for it to be lowered to 20 percent.
"I think it was a fair compromise," he said.
Katko's vote — he was one of four New York Republicans who supported the bill — drew a rebuke from Democrats and activists in central New York.
Dana Balter and Anne Messenger, two Democrats who are seeking their party's nomination to challenge Katko in 2018, criticized Katko for supporting the GOP tax plan.
Balter, D-Syracuse, called the tax bill "a giveaway to corporations and to millionaires and billionaires."
"It is terrible for central New York in particular, but it's terrible for working families all over the country," she said.
Messenger, D-Manlius, added, "I don't know who he's representing, but it's not the people I'm talking with."
There are numerous provisions that concern Democrats. Outside of the purported tax benefits, the bill eliminates the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate penalty. The mandate was included in the 2010 health care law.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 13 million more people will be uninsured once the mandate is eliminated in 2019. The projection also suggests that health insurance premiums will rise because there will be fewer individuals in the market.
Katko said the year until the mandate is eliminated will give Congress time to develop a legislative fix for propping up the individual marketplace. He has supported repealing the individual mandate in the past and has questioned the constitutionality of the requirement.
"I don't think there's a time or a place where we should impose mandates on people where basically if they don't do something that is strictly a voluntary thing like get insurance, they're going to get penalized for it," he said. "I just don't think we should do that."
Tuesday's vote will likely not be Katko's last on the tax bill.
Due to Senate rules, a few provisions in the tax agreement needed to be removed in order for it to be considered by the chamber. Even though the changes are small, it will require another vote in the House.
The House is scheduled to vote again on the tax bill Wednesday morning.
AUBURN — An Auburn man will remain in jail without bail for allegedly stabbing a man in the head in the town of Victory.
Nathan Fillingham, 29, of 88 Capital St., was arrested in August in connection with a stabbing at 458 Victory Road. At the time, the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office said Fillingham had stabbed 35-year-old Joshua Hoeffner several times in the head, hand and torso.
Hoeffner was transported to Upstate University Hospital and subsequently transferred to Crouse Hospital with serious injuries. Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said Hoeffner ended up losing sight in one eye as a result of the incident.
Fillingham was initially charged with first-degree assault, a felony, and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, a misdemeanor. However, last week, a grand jury indicted Fillingham on an additional charge: second-degree attempted murder.
On Tuesday, Fillingham pleaded not guilty to all three counts in Cayuga County Court. He was remanded to Cayuga County Jail without bail pending his next court appearance Feb. 20.
Also in court:
• An Auburn woman who was arrested in a drug bust last week has been indicted in a separate case in Cayuga County.
Sitting in a wheelchair Tuesday morning in Cayuga County Court, 44-year-old Patricia Lafler pleaded not guilty to possessing narcotics earlier this year. She was charged with two felonies and nine misdemeanors, including third-, fourth- and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia and endangering the welfare of a child.
In court, the district attorney said Lafler had been arrested for possessing narcotics in March but was later released on bail. Then, late last week, the Auburn Police Department said officers executed a search warrant at Lafler's residence at 52 Osborne St. and recovered an additional 8.8 grams of crack cocaine and over $220 in cash.
Lafler appeared in court Tuesday for an arraignment on the case from March. She is facing five additional drug-related charges for her arrest last week.
Lafler was remanded to Cayuga County Jail without bail. She is scheduled to return to court Feb. 20.
• An Auburn man was resentenced to one year in prison Tuesday for violating the terms and conditions of his probation.
Dequan Wilson, 25, of 18 Baker Ave. Apt. 3, was convicted in March 2016 of third-degree criminal sale of marijuana, a felony, and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, and sentenced to five years probation and six months in jail. However, in August, New York State Police said he was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
On Aug. 16, state police said Wilson was stopped on Clark Street Road in the town of Aurelius for failing to dim his lights. He was later arrested after failing multiple standard field sobriety tests and registering a blood alcohol content of .15 percent.
Wilson previously admitted to the charges, and on Tuesday, he was sentenced to one year in prison and one year post-release supervision. In addition, Wilson was ordered to pay the remaining $483 in restitution from his case in 2016.
• A Montezuma man will spend the next four months of weekends in jail for his third drunk driving conviction.
In August, 34-year-old David Decker, of 8526 Wilsey Road, was pulled over for a lane violation on State Street. Upon further investigation, police said Decker's blood alcohol content was .13 percent.
Decker ultimately pleaded guilty to two felonies — felony driving while intoxicated and first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Police said it was his third DWI since 2008.
In court Tuesday, Judge Thomas Leone sentenced Decker to five years probation with the first four months of weekends served in Cayuga County Jail. He also ordered Decker to successfully complete felony drug treatment court and have his driver license revoked for at least one year.
Decker will begin serving his weekends in jail Friday, Dec. 29. He will also have to wear a SCRAM bracelet to monitor his alcohol use, pay $3,000 in fines and have an ignition interlock device placed on any vehicle he has access to.