Seneca Falls Town Board grants SMI permit, establishes town manager position: Full recap of February meeting

For over two years, the Seneca Falls Town Board has mulled over a motion to grant the Seneca Meadows Landfill a permit to operate. Last night the motion passed in a matter of minutes.

In a packed room of about 50 people, and after several local citizens, organizations and businesses petitioned their cases on why the Town should deny the permit based on odor violations; the Board carried the motion to grant the operating license with a 4-1 vote, with only Councilmember Steven Churchill opposing.

SMI, located on State Route 414, accepts 6,000 tons of garbage a day. In 2020, SMI applied to the state DEC for a 50-acre expansion, potentially extending their acceptance of regional refuse ten years past its 2025 set closure date established by Local Law 3 2016.

“How can we pass a permit that violates Town codes,” Churchill stated, citing that SMI was not only in violation of the current code concerning the odor emitted from the landfill but denied to implore independent monitoring or demonstrate their plan or process to control the hydrogen sulfide smell.


Douglas Zamelis, ESQ., an environmental attorney representing Waterloo Container, provided the Board with hundreds of documentation pages before the motion. Zamelis’s report contained 450 confirmed odor complaints. He noted that on numerous occasions, the box on the daily inspection list under “Odor” was marked “Not Inspected,” stating residents are being “gaslighted and trained not to believe their own nose…and the DEC is asleep at the wheel.”

After the meeting, Mark Pitifer, speaking for William Lutz, president, and owner of Waterloo Container, commented that “For three years, clearly the Board voted down or tabled the permit for logical reasons. They wanted Seneca Meadows to meet them at the table and address the violations of Town Code 300-26B and DEC code 6NYCRR-211.1. What the Town requested wasn’t unreasonable, and Seneca Meadows is in clear violation of these established codes putting the health and quality of life of residents in jeopardy.”

Town Supervisor Mike Ferrara spoke to FingerLakes1.com after the meeting and stated that the landfill continued under the state DEC permit, even without the Town Board operating permit, and it was more of a formality.

Ferrara stated that the landfill had been there for forty years, and he is looking more towards opportunities for the future, including eliminating organics from the waste stream. He noted that there was still work to do.


TOWN MANAGER POSITION ESTABLISHED

Following the public hearing, the Seneca Falls Town Board voted 3-2 to establish the new position of Town Manager, and Councilmembers Dyson and Churchill dissented. The new, full-time position will be responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities of the Town under the direction and guidance of the Town Board.

The position will be an exempt civil service position and will be paid for with funds allotted from the Host Community Agreement with Seneca Meadows for $110,000, and will be prorated for the 2022 year, and will later assess and decide whether or not to include it in the 2023 Town Budget.

The next goal is to establish a selection committee composed of three non-elected town employees and Citizen Advisory Committee members and advertise for qualified candidates.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

Three public hearings will take place on March 1 at 6 PM.

Last month, Councilmember Churchill strongly opposed the proposed resolutions for zoning modifications to establish solar usage within the Town citing. He said the 16-year-old Comprehensive Plan needed to be updated before the zoning codes were updated to ensure that they matched the Town’s vision for the future. Churchill maintained his position last night, being the only sole vote against establishing the Public Hearing for March 1 regarding the new zoning ordinances for Solar Energy Systems.

A Public Hearing for Zoning Law Change for Battery Storage Systems will be the second Public Hearing that Evening.

Finally, a Public Hearing for the Consolidation Townwide Sewer District, Bridgeport Sewer District, and West Seneca Falls Sewer District.


RESIGNATIONS AND APPOINTMENTS

  • Beverly (Bev) Warfel resigned due to retirement as Principal Account Clerk as of March 1, 2022.
  • James Varricchio of Seneca Falls was appointed to the Chief Water Treatment Plant Operator position starting February 1, 2022, with an annual salary of $78,000 per year. The post has been vacant since 2018. It is not a newly created position, was advertised internally, will cost $2,000-$5,000 in additional funding from the water budget.
  • Peter Procelli has been named the part-time Code Enforcement Officer, at 30 hours per week at a rate of $18.28 per hour, starting February 2, 2022, with the provision he places in the top three upon completion of the exam.
  • Heritage Preservation Commission Appointment given to Lorrilyn Bove and alternates Claire Ludovico and Daniel Babbitt, Sr.
  • Assessment Review Board Appointments carried for Douglas Avery and T.J. Cassamassima.

WATCH THE FULL MEETING HERE:


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