By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — Garbage and recycling services at the town and county level are facing worker shortages, and the problem is expected to get worse before it gets better.
For residents, that has meant the town recycling center has, at times, been overloaded with trash and recyclables that the county can’t collect on a timely basis. Recently, that has led to the facility declining to accept more plastics and other materials until the overflow has been collected.
Town Supervisor Paul Macko said at the town board’s June 20 meeting that the town facility on Route 26A is having difficulty filling an open position, and Greene County Solid Waste, which collects trash and recyclables from the Greenville facility, is facing similar challenges.
“Greene County Solid Waste is down to four drivers servicing all of the recycling centers in the county,” Macko said. “That’s Greenville, Durham, Windham, Cairo, Catskill, Halcott — all of them.”
Bagged garbage is collected by the county and the town pays a fee based on the weight of the trash, and then the county works with a contractor to haul the trash to a facility in Seneca Falls in the Finger Lakes region, Macko said.
Recyclables are also collected by the county and then proceeds from selling the recyclables pay the fee for the collection.
The county is having trouble filling positions in the department, Macko said, and the town also has a vacancy to fill at the Greenville facility.
“We have a position in Recycling that I would really like to fill,” Macko said. “It would be 13 hours a week, Mondays and Saturdays. Recycling is open for six hours and there’s a built-in half-hour’s worth of overtime at the end of the day to do all the paperwork and double count the money and get everything ready for a deposit in the next business day or two.”
The position has been open for some time, but so far, there have been no takers, the town supervisor said.
“I have had nobody come forward for that position,” Macko said.
Instead, the town is assigning another town employee who normally maintains town properties, including the cemetery, to double up on his work to fill in at the recycling center.
With an employee shortage at the county level, as well as a vacant position at the Greenville facility, getting things moving has proved dicey. On some days, the recycling center on Route 26A has been full and unable to accept plastics and other recyclable items.
Macko is asking residents to be patient as the town and county work on a solution.
“It’s a tough situation,” Macko said. “I just hope that everybody would be patient. We have even gone as far as to request an extra empty dumpster for bagged garbage and an extra dumpster for carboard, and they just don’t have them available.”
Town Councilman Richard Bear said he has been in contact with the county and said the problem is likely to get worse.
“The solution is not going to be much better as we go on because there are vacations all summer,” Bear said. “We are probably going to be down to three drivers hauling all summer, so we are going to be in real desperate need to get our materials moved.”
Hiring drivers has proven difficult for the county, Bear said.
“They can’t hire drivers — every time they hire a driver, another one quits,” Bear said. “It seems it’s like one step forward, two steps backward. I don’t know what we can do other than buying a garbage truck and running it to Catskill — that is about our only angle.”
Town Councilman Joel Rauf said other rural communities, including the town of Rensselaerville, have their own garbage truck for that reason.
“That’s what other rural towns are doing,” Rauf said.
Until a solution is found, Macko asked that residents be patient, and do what they can to help.
“One of the most important things we can do now is to ask everyone to flatten all their carboard so we can get more in the container,” Macko said.
Greene County Legislator Greg Davis, R-Greenville, said the Legislature has met with county departments and the worker shortage is widespread.
“We have a serious workforce problem,” Davis said. “We have had people retiring and we can’t find anybody to fill in.”
Moving forward, Davis said residents can expect trash collection fees to go up, whether they use the county or town facilities, or a private company.
“Everybody’s garbage is going to be going up, even if you use a private service,” Davis said. “The private services bring all the garbage to Greene County Solid Waste, where they pay a fee to dump that garbage, then that garbage is hauled by private haulers to Seneca Meadows, where there is also a dumping fee. That dumping fee has gone up. The cost of the truckers (and diesel fuel) has gone up.”
The trash collection business is a costly one for Greene County, Davis said — the county actually loses money on solid waste disposal.
“The county loses approximately half a million dollars — that was one of the big discussions: do we want to keep it like it is, or do we want to raise prices so much that it pays for itself?” Davis said. “I don’t like that idea because the more you raise prices, the more bags of garbage you find on the side of the road. We are going to have to continue to lose some money, but we will be raising fees and that will affect the private haulers, too.”