Interesting Article in the Shawangunk Journal this week.
FROM SHAWANGUNK JOURNAL
ULSTER COUNTY DISPATCH
Chairman Defends Dinner
By Paula Sirc
KINGSTON – Of the receipts reflecting the thousands of dollars spent annually by former director of the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency Mike Bemis on hotels, conferences and dinners, one bill, in particular, nags at Ulster County Chairman Fred Wadnola, R-Lake Katrine. The item in question is a receipt for an $800 agency staff dinner at his wife's restaurant, Fred's Place.
"I didn't even know about the party and she didn't remember it until they brought the receipt over," he said.
Memory refreshed, Wadnola said that the party was attended by all of the agency's staff, who "drank more than they ate," and was a celebration of the DEC permit that the agency had received. "That was in 2007, when I had nothing to do with the RRA," the county chairman said. "They keep crucifying Fred's Place, yet the agency had a Christmas party at another local place and spent over $900 and no one said a word."
The receipt for the dinner is dated Jan. 25, 2008, which, as reported in the Daily Freeman, was eleven days after the county's environmental committee floated the idea of Wadnola serving on the agency's board.
Nominated to the board by former Minority Leader, Glenn Noonan, Wadnola's appointment was confirmed in February 2008. It was during his tenure on the trash agency's board, he said, that they passed a resolution banning alcohol consumption.
The chairman also defended Legislator Kevin Roberts, R-Wallkill, who he appointed to chair the Government Services Committee that oversees the trash agency. The Freeman reported that in August 2009, while he was on the legislative board that oversees the agency, Roberts asked for and received a $14-per ton discount from the agency for 8.5 tons of debris from his contracting company.
Wadnola said that while he wouldn't have done what Roberts did, it was an innocent misstep and that the legislator was only "doing what contractors do — when they go to different landfills, they try to get the best price they can."
The chairman said that the focus on the RRA has been far too political and that attention should be drawn to the work that's being done right now to make the agency financially viable.
The UCRRA has been under financial scrutiny since August when Ulster County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach issued a report criticizing the lack of legislative oversight involved in the operations of the agency. The report examined some $32 million in fees, known as Net Service Fees, NSF, that the county has paid the trash agency since 1992, per an agreement between the county and the UCRRA.
The net service fee — the difference between RRA expenses and revenues — reduces the cost of services to taxpayers and keeps the agency competitive. A 1992 contract with the county requires taxpayers to pay the fee.
Wadnola believes that the agency would "wipe out" the net service fee entirely and begin to repay county taxpayers by siting a county landfill in one of the towns.
"We'd save anywhere from $4-7 million in fuel from trucking everything up to Syracuse," he said.
Noting the improvements in landfill technology since the UCRRA initially tried to site one in the early 1990's, including environmentally-friendly synthetic liners, Wadnola said, "I wouldn't have a problem with siting a landfill in the Town of Ulster — it would produce revenue for the town in terms of a community benefit and for the county and would save taxpayers millions of dollars."