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One position is envisioned for managing of solid waste Oversight role for Pope not part of county plan

If its plan is approved in Albany, Niagara County will be hiring a new full-time employee to govern its solid-waste management efforts, seemingly relegating Refuse Disposal District Director Richard P. Pope to landfill management.

But Pope said Saturday that he thinks a position of deputy public works commissioner will be needed to oversee the new appointee and that he would like that position for himself.

However, County Legislature Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, said there are no plans to create a job such as the one envisioned by Pope.

Pope had sought the role of governing the execution of the state-mandated waste-management plan, and a pay raise of as much as $20,000 to go with the added responsibility.

But the county's final plan, submitted Wednesday to the Department of Environmental Conservation, envisions a new job title of environmental science coordinator. The person in that job, to be filled through civil service procedures, would report to Public Works Commissioner Kevin P. O'Brien.

A March 5 letter to County Manager Gregory D. Lewis from Mark J. Hans, a DEC regional solid-materials engineer, said that if the county wanted grant funding to help pay for the new job, the appointee had to devote at least half his time to the recycling effort. Burmaster said that this seemed to rule out Pope from consideration for added duties.

"At this point, the district yields to our elected leadership on the staffing of the plan," Pope said. "However, I still feel, based on my knowledge and expertise, that there will have to be a deputy commissioner of public works to oversee this [coordinator]."

Pope also pointed out that he already has clerical help. Burmaster acknowledged that a secretary would have to be hired for the newcomer.

Burmaster said Lewis accepted his invitation to Saturday's caucus in Wheat
field to discuss the issue with the legislators.
Lewis could not be reached to comment, but about six weeks ago, he told The Buffalo News he wanted a deputy public works commissioner to govern the waste plan. The job title was changed to environmental sciences coordinator, as recommended by the DEC, by the time Lewis signed the plan Wednesday.

"Greg's been a good steward on this. He's got it pretty firm in his mind, and he did not lay out any such position as [deputy commissioner]," Burmaster said.

Burmaster said the environmental science coordinator is expected to be paid about $50,000 a year. Pope earns $58,652 as head of the Refuse District, which covers eight of the county's 12 towns and all three of its cities. Its primary function today is operating a landfill in Lockport for construction and demolition debris and maintaining closed landfills once used for trash.

The DEC has been after the county since 1989 to adopt a solid-waste plan. It got tough with the county late last year, announcing that it would withhold grant funding not only from the county but all of its municipalities unless a plan was submitted quickly.

The county wants to free up $291,000 in DEC aid to reimburse half the cost of a Gruendler tub grinder it bought for the Refuse District in 2002 with tobacco bond proceeds, and also wants to make sure it receives state funding to recap one of its closed landfills, a $12 million job tentatively scheduled for 2010.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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