Otsego County is projected to fall far short of its quota of rubbish deliveries to MOSA this year and may face a penalty of almost $350,000.
Terry Bliss, county planning and solid waste director, said Thursday, ``Through January and February, we're on pace to fall 3,248 tons short.''
By terms of its contract with the Montgomery Otsego Schoharie Solid Waste Management Authority, the county must pay for undelivered tons this year at the rate of $106 per ton.
Last year, the county fell 2,274 tons short and paid a $237,000 penalty.
The numbers for this year portend a bill of $347,904.
``It's not a good situation,'' said Bliss, noting it has at least two causes: the recession and waste not being delivered to MOSA.
In a recession, people tend to buy and throw out less.
``I think that's part of it,'' Bliss said.
Another factor is that rubbish from Hartwick College and the State University College at Oneonta is no longer going to MOSA.
``That's being picked up by Waste Recovery Enterprises, and it's leaving the system,'' said Bliss.
WRE owner Denny Reed confirmed this.
``Keep in mind that all the garbage in Otsego County leaves the county, not just what we pick up,'' he said.
Reed is under contract this year to handle the county's recyclables, scheduled to be paid $265,100 for up to 34,000 tons. While that might have been adequate before the recession, it's a losing proposition now, because the bottom has fallen out of the recycling market, he said.
And with a poor recycling contract, Reed has to make sure his rubbish collection turns a profit.
``We're in business and we want to stay in business,'' he said. ``I don't want to cost the county money, but MOSA's costs are crazy.
``$106 a ton?'' Reed said other county landfills charge less than half as much.
For years, MOSA's high tipping fee has been attributed to the high cost of paying down its debt. On Friday, however, Gilbert Chichester, MOSA's executive director, said that debt may be decreased by the member counties, a process to be discussed at a meeting this week.
MOSA's cash reserves and perhaps money from the three counties could be used to guarantee payment on the Authority's debt. If debt payments were no longer driving up the tipping fee, MOSA might be able to offer far lower prices, even before 2014, when the problematic 25-year contract binding counties together is scheduled to expire.
Otsego County Board Chair James Powers, R-Butternuts, said board members and county solid waste consultant Hans Arnold have been working on the MOSA problem and that plans may soon be made public.
Powers, a dairy farmer, also disclosed that he's annoyed with MOSA because his check was rejected when he took a load of garbage to the Oneonta transfer station last Monday.
``They wouldn't take a check from the farm for $16 unless I wanted to fill out a long form and explain why my name wasn't on it,'' said Powers, ``And I thought, here we are, short of garbage, and we're making it harder than ever for people to get rid of it.
``This has got to stop.''
The chairman said he sent that load of garbage to Chenango County and paid less than half the MOSA fee.
``I'll be going back to MOSA, but I wanted to send a message,'' said Powers.
Chichester said he regretted the incident, but MOSA has lost money before on third-party checks.
The form seems long because it contains information about the Authority, but the part that needs to be filled out is short, said Chichester.