The Daily Catch

Two Potential New Compost Sites Could Rescue Village Plan, Rhinebeck Town Board Says

Rhinebeck’s compost program may be redesigned with The O-Zone of Red Hook providing waste hauling services (photo by Amelia Legare of The O-Zone).

At a raucous Rhinebeck Town Board meeting, punctuated with a citizen’s threats to sue the town into bankruptcy, leaders said they have identified two new sites to host the village’s composting program. 

The news comes just weeks after threats of a lawsuit by a group of residents who live near the first proposed site shut down that option, at the Village Highway Department off Route 308.

“I’m not a government person but this seems like a common sense problem,” said an impassioned town resident Arthur Birkins, who lives near the highway department. “Why are we not getting a common sense answer?”

Board Member Allan Scherr stated that the two most likely options now are the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) site in Kingston and a farm yet to be identified. “We are still digesting the composting issue in Rhinebeck,” said Board member Josh Pulver.

Previously, a fourth site, the town transfer station on Stone Church Road had also been considered.

The operational details of the program are also still being worked out, Scherr said. But in all options, both town and village residents would likely be able to participate in composting. Town Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia has said that she and the Town Board support the village composting program, which would become available to town residents if a cost-sharing agreement can be established. But Spinzia expressed concerns about financing after neighbors of the highway department raised concerns (see our story about how the Village Highway Department location fell apart).

In both the UCRRA and farm location options, three dropoff sites would be established to residents of both the village and the town: a spot in Rhinecliff; at the village parking lot; and at the town transfer station. 

Then, either the scraps would be delivered to UCRRA in Kingston for composting there, or they would be hauled to a local farm at which the end-to-end process would occur on-site.

Town Board members Allan Scherr and Chauncey Walker smile ahead of a heated meeting at which the village compost program was again discussed (photo by Angelina Papa).

No matter which approach is followed, the compost will need 30 minutes of daily attention and around 10 hours per week of additional labor, Scherr said. With the local farm option, the town would pay an estimated $780 per month for O-Zone to pick up and move the compost from the three resident drop-off sites. If transport to Kingston is needed, the O-Zone fee would be $931 per month, according to a Town Board chart. 

Despite the elimination of the highway facility as an option, community members still gathered tonight at a regular scheduled Town Board meeting at which the composting project was on the agenda for a “short update.” 

John Cusick, who lives on Violet Hill Road bordering the 8.8-acre Village Highway Department site, repeated concerns uttered at earlier meetings about the potential odor and rodents a composting site would attract. Cusick asked the board for 100 percent certainty the composting site will not come to fruition near his property. Board member Chauncey Walker replied that it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to make that promise.

Cusick then yelled, “I have lawyers on retainer. Bring it on! Bring it on!” Cusick swore to sue the town into bankruptcy should the Village Highway Department be chosen to host the Village’s composting project. 

At a July 5 Town Board meeting, Village Trustee Vanessa Bertozzi, who designed the village plan, responded from the audience that the town’s support is not necessary for the project to move ahead but, she said, town support would provide strength to the cause. 

For the project, the Village has received $300,000 in two grants, one from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and a second from the county. 

The facility, originally intended to afford an end-to-end process rather than one for which scraps are carted elsewhere, requires access to electricity, water, and at least 3 acres of space that have at least 200 feet of clearance from wetlands and gullies, as well as highway access, according to Scherr.

One response to “Two Potential New Compost Sites Could Rescue Village Plan, Rhinebeck Town Board Says”

  1. John Rossi says:

    “For the project, the Village has received $300,000 in two grants, one from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and a second from the county”.

    According to records I received, less than three weeks ago by way of Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) filings, the Village has yet to actually receive any DEC funds.

    Those records included a letter dated December 22, 2022 from Sally Rowland, Division of Materials Management, NYS DEC. The award letter from Ms. Rowland includes the passage below.

    “This letter serves as pre-notification of a pending grant award in the amount of $ 200,000.00”.

    The letter also warns applicants not to incur any cost until the Master Contract for Grants (MCG) has been fully approved and executed.

    “Applicants should not begin their projects or incur costs until a Master Contract for Grants (MCG) has been fully approved and executed by DEC”.

    Because my FOIL requests for the MCG have gone unanswered, I can only conclude the MCG was never completed by the Village, potentially putting further distance between the Village and the receipt of any DEC funding.

    Finally, the public should know the DEC grant reimburses expenses as they accrue over time, which is to say the Village pays the engineers, the contractors etc. and submits all receipts to the DEC for reimbursement. Project overruns are non-reimbursable.

    The other $100,000 grant was not from the county. The Daily Catch’s reporting and coverage from June 14, 2023 identified the non-profit Partners for Climate Action as the source of funding. It is my understanding those funds were contingent upon fulfillment of the DEC grant.

    Thank you Ms. Papa and The Daily Catch for your continued coverage of this important story.

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