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School district, village garbage contract questioned

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MASSENA - Something doesn’t sound right about the Massena Central School District’s five-year garbage disposal agreement with the village, according to incoming board of education member Patrick Serguson.

The Department of Public Works will begin picking up the district’s garbage and recyclables July 1. On Tuesday night, the village’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the agreement, and on Thursday night the board of education followed suit with a 6-1 vote, with William Sommerfield dissenting. Board President Leonard Matthews was not in attendance at Thursday night’s meeting and board member John Boyce left the meeting prior to the vote.

The district currently has a $33,000-a-year contract with Casella Resource Solutions, Director of Operations William L. Seguin previously said. The new contract with the village will cost $43,500 a year for five years, with the district buying $20,000 worth of dumpsters.

The agreement would save the district “tens of thousands of dollars” over five years than Casella’s more expensive offer, Mr. Seguin said at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Mr. Serguson, who will be sworn in next month, urged board members to table the garbage agreement until they could review the costs further. He had checked with Casella officials, who told him the company had offered the school district a $47,900 per-year contract. When stretching that over five years, the village option would only save a couple thousand dollars because of the district’s purchase of dumpsters, he said.

He wondered what would happen to the $20,000 worth of dumpsters if the village opted out of the agreement after one-year, which the contract allows for.

“I just don’t see it being a cost savings,” he said. “If we get stuck with it, what are we going to do with it?”

“For this to be this close, why not stay with someone who’s doing it right?” he asked, referring to Casella.

The board approved the garbage agreement with little discussion in open session. Before the approval, Mr. Seguin told board members the savings by going with the village will be $26,500 over five years. Casella’s first year would cost $47,900, but would jump to $51,400 in the second year and would stay at least that high subsequently.

He reviewed the numbers again after his presentation and realized the savings was actually $16,000, $10,500 less than he had just told board members.

“It was an honest mistake. It really was,” he said. “It’s still a savings of $16,000.”

Mr. Seguin said the village deal was worth it because of the savings. He said the district’s custodians had weighed all of the garbage over the last six months to ensure the $43,500 estimate was accurate.

“I strongly believe we can do it for $43,500,” he said.

State education law indicates boards of education should avoid multi-year service contracts, with the exception of transportation and cafeteria service. Trash removal should only be a one year contract. Mr. Seguin said the district’s five-year agreement with the village is really only one year because the village has the ability to opt out at that point.

Tuesday night’s village board discussion about the garbage agreement occurred in open session, but any board of education discussion about it Thursday night may have been behind closed doors. Board member Gregory C. Fregoe gave a “contract with agencies outside the district” as one reason for the executive session.

Mr. Fregoe said he called for an executive session because the garbage agreement was a contractual issue with the board, and deferred further comment to Superintendent Roger B. Clough II. He said he did not know why the village had a discussion in open session about the garbage agreement, but the school district did not.

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