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OFFICIALS HOPING TO SELL LANDFILL AND AVOID EXPENSIVE SHUTDOWN COSTS

As soon as this week, 4,021 landfill operators across the country will receive information from the Niagara County Refuse Disposal District designed to pique their interest in buying the county's construction and demolition landfill here.

The district board decided in July to offer the landfill, the district's only active one, for sale.

The declining revenue from the site, coupled with the costs of maintaining two neighboring closed landfills whose caps need repair, confronts the district with a deficit of as much as $500,000, which would be passed on to county property taxpayers in the district's eight member towns.

The towns called on the county to close the landfill, but the district is going the sale route instead, in hopes of avoiding the cost of the closing.

Those were estimated by district director Richard P. Pope earlier this year at $1,182,500 up front, plus $225,000 a year for the next 30 years. That's how long the state mandates closed landfills be monitored.

Legislator Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, chairman of the district board, said there definitely will be a refuse district deficit added to taxes for 1999.

"There really isn't any way to avoid it," Burmaster said. "That's one of the reasons why it behooves us to sell the landfill."

The landfill operators who receive the county's information packet will be given until Nov. 30 to send in $15 for a detailed report on the operation. Those who do so will be invited to attend a meeting, which Burmaster said will be open to the public, to discuss the landfill's status and prospects.

Then, those still interested will be asked to respond to a request for proposals, or bids. A buyer would be required to assume all liability for any environmental problems or costs that might surface after the sale, taking the county off the hook.

Burmaster said the grapevine tells him "there is genuine interest. I've not been given any negative vibes from anything we've done."

The 15.38-acre site off routes 31 and 93 is in a portion of a former stone quarry. It has active state disposal permits, and assistant county attorney J. Michael Fitzgerald has said those are transferable.

The area used for the construction and demolition landfill covers 5.7 acres, and has about three years' worth of disposal space left. The rest is available for possible expansion.

Burmaster noted there is a railroad right of way along the edge of the landfill, although the tracks were removed a couple of years ago. He said since there are no homes in the immediate vicinity and the site is bordered by two major highways, complaints about truck traffic have not surfaced.

Burmaster said mining of some of the waste has extended the life of the landfill. Some of the debris is trucked to Ohio by a private company, which uses it to cap a landfill there. Burmaster said some of the rest is being used to shore up the deteriorating caps of the two neighboring household waste landfills. Landfill 1 was closed in 1984, and Landfill 2 in 1994.

The district is talking with Ecogas Inc. of Austin, Texas, about selling it the rights to the gas generated at landfills 1 and 2, which could be a lucrative energy source.

Burmaster said there's even a possibility someone might buy the two closed landfills along with the active construction and demolition site, if they were interested in the gas. The county would then avoid the cost of continuing to maintain the capped landfills.

The cost of producing and sending out the information packet is pegged at $2,328.

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