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The Niagara County Refuse Disposal District's effort to sell its Lockport landfills fell flat Tuesday when the bidding deadline passed without any bids.

County Legislator Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, chairman of the district board, said the board will convene next Tuesday to consider a range of options, which he said could include shutting down the only active landfill, the construction and demolition landfill, commonly called the C&D landfill.

Burmaster said another sale attempt also is possible.

"These issues will all be brought onto the table for (the board's) consideration," he said.

District director Richard P. Pope said the district has been mining waste from the C&D site, and plans to haul more out next year.

He said that will open up $1 million worth of air space in the C&D landfill, at the current disposal price of $60 a ton. "The C&D landfill is now worth more than it was at the beginning of the bid process," Pope said.

Burmaster said he was "absolutely surprised" by the lack of bids. "It's disappointing, discouraging, disheartening," he said.

The district had worked on the notion of unloading the three Lockport landfills for more than a year, in hopes of avoiding some or all of what are expected to be millions of dollars in closure and monitoring costs over the next 30 years.

That's how long state regulations require closed landfills to be monitored.

More than a dozen firms, most of them from outside Western New York, once expressed interest in bidding. They attended a pre-bid meeting in January and were sent detailed answers to their questions in March.

The final package of bid documents, prepared under a contract with a Pittsburgh law firm that cost $55,000, went out in June.

Burmaster said he planned to contact some of the companies to see why they didn't bid. They had the option of buying only the C&D landfill or all three.

The other two landfills, used for household garbage and industrial waste, have long been capped, but the caps are leaking and the state Department of Environmental Conservation has ordered repairs.

Even though the C&D landfill is profitable, the costs of those repairs to Landfills 1 and 2 led to the district imposing its first-ever property tax this year, a $1,131,916 levy that added 16 to 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation to most county tax bills.

The district's proposed 2000 budget cuts that levy to $432,099, a 61.8 percent reduction.

Total spending in the proposed budget is $3,211,309, a cut of 64.8 percent from this year's appropriations. Pope said, "I'm very proud of this budget. It doesn't get any leaner."

However, Burmaster said he's sure the refuse district tax "will be a political football" in this year's election campaign. Some candidates have urged the complete abolition of the tax.

"My response is, 'What's your plan?' " Burmaster said. "It's one thing to say you don't like it. . . . There are only two ways to zero it out -- increasing revenue or a gift from somewhere in the form of a grant."

The district applied early this year for a state DEC grant that Pope said could bring in more than $2 million over the next two to three years.

Burmaster complained, "We were told at the time we submitted this grant that it was one of the best applications they'd ever seen. We haven't heard a word from them since."

Pope said there's a third way to save money, which is to hope the DEC relaxes its mandates on landfill monitoring and closure. The county has long griped that the caps that it installed were the state of the art when they were put on. The closure of Landfill 1 was completed in 1984, Landfill 2 in 1994.

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