BALLSTON SPA -- The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors will soon debate whether they should sell the 11-year-old, never-used county landfill in Northumberland or open it themselves.
Those were two options presented to the Public Works Committee on Tuesday by a consultant who studied the options for the dump, which was completed in 2000 at a cost of more than $10 million.
The county might be able to make back $10 million by selling or leasing the 130-acre dump, Hans Arnold, of Gerhardt LLC, told the committee. But he stressed that its current market value cannot be evaluated without putting out a request for bids.
If Saratoga County chose to open the site to handle its own trash, $2.5 million to $3.5 million would be required to buy equipment, Arnold said. Those upfront expenses would be separate from the roughly $3.5 million annual budget he told them would be needed to run the dump.
Despite never being used, the landfill has been permitted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation since 2001 to receive up to 106,000 tons of garbage annually. Were the county to open it and meet that limit, Arnold said, Saratoga County would still have 159,000 tons of trash a year that would have to dispose of elsewhere.
Currently, the county's municipal waste is hauled by private companies. Supervisors have described the landfill as an "insurance policy" - an available option if the cost of private hauling increases substantially.
But its expense and disuse were targeted in the 2012 budget process, when supervisors acknowledged the county is facing a tough financial reality.
The other options Arnold detailed were leaving the site as-is, relinquishing the DEC permit or partially privatizing the dump.
Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett pushed for a resolution to put out a request for bids on the landfill's purchase as soon as possible.
"We don't know what the landfill is worth until we see what someone is willing to pay for it," he said.
But others said they had unanswered questions, including about potential legal hurdles and dealing with a 2001 resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors dictating that the landfill not be privatized.
Northumberland Supervisor Willard Peck, who is not on the committee, said a sale would be one-time revenue and warned it should not be seen as an end-all solution to the county's financial woes.
The committee opted to ask consultants for options on the bidding process. Any further action will likely be taken by next year's Public Works Committee, as Tuesday marked the final meeting of the current one.
But supervisors said they would address the landfill question, which many said had dragged on for too long, head-on.
"We should definitely make it a priority," Wilton Supervisor Art Johnson said.
Regardless of what the county chooses to do, Arnold reminded the committee that a 2008 study identified between $111,000 and $144,000 in routine maintenance needed at the landfill.
A new engineering study should be conducted to assess the condition of equipment there, he said.
His recommendations accompanied a separate, but related, report outlining an overall plan to deal with trash and recyclables for the next 10 years.
That plan was commissioned earlier this year to comply with stricter guidelines put forth by the DEC. The committee voted to send that plan to the state for approval.