The Town of Plattsburgh is aiming to continue its fight with the City of Plattsburgh over the controversial compost plant.

The town has filed a notice to appeal a recent court decision that found Clinton County was within its rights to transfer the compost plant property to the city.

"We felt we needed to file this notice of appeal," said Town Supervisor Bernard Basset. "With the reality of the Laurentian (Aerospace) project coming, we think we need to revisit the compost site for use for some other purpose and look for a possible different site for the plant."

CLOSED IN 2004

The Rugar Street compost plant was built in 1986 with the help of federal funds. It was designed to treat sludge from the city's Water Pollution Control Plant.

Clinton County owned the property, but under the terms of the federal funding, the plant belonged to the city.

From the beginning, the plant had trouble with odor and equipment malfunctions.

A major fire caused significant damage in 2001.

After the fire, the city tried a method known as Nviro that turned sludge into a dry compost, but that effort also was abandoned after complaints about the smell of the product.

The city stopped using the plant altogether in 2004.

COUNTY WINS SUIT

Since then, the city has been trucking sludge from the Water Pollution Control Plant to the Franklin County Landfill in Malone.

Fearing that Franklin County may someday stop allowing that, city officials started working on a backup plan that would employ a procedure similar to the Nviro method to treat sludge, just in case.

Last summer, the county transferred title of the compost property to the city. The original deal called for the transfer once the debt on the facility was retired, which happened two years ago.

The town objected, but the county ruled against it and went ahead with the transfer.

The town also objected to the city being named the lead agent in the State Environmental Quality Review process, as was done by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The town went to court over the county's ruling, but last month, State Supreme Court Judge Robert J. Muller ruled in favor of the county.

LEGAL FEES PRICEY

Bassett said the town is fighting the issue because he and other officials believe the compost plant property lies in the middle of what could be a very valuable development corridor between Plattsburgh International Airport and the former Clinton County Airport property off Route 3.

"I think the city ought to rethink its position on this," he said.

"We don't think the city is really looking at a backup plan. We think they are trying to implement a sludge treatment process and that is the wrong place to do it."

With Laurentian Aerospace's plans for a $175 million aircraft retrofitting operation at Plattsburgh International Airport, Bassett said, both municipalities need to look to the future.

He said the town is willing to sit down and discuss possible alternative sites for the compost plant that would benefit the entire region.

"You only get one chance to correct history," Bassett said.

The town has spent about $50,000 on legal fees so far on the case, but he said there was little choice.

"We are extremely frustrated that we have had to spend this much money on this, but we don't want future generations saying why didn't you do something," Bassett said.

"It irritates me to no end that we've had to allocate this much funds for this."

MAYOR PERPLEXED

The town has nine months to finalize an appeal if it chooses to do so.

"It won't be just me that decides," Bassett said.

"The town board will have to sit down and see if this is what we want to do."

City Mayor Donald Kasprzak thinks the town should give up its efforts to sue.

"After losing three decisions on this issue, I do not understand the town supervisor's decision to possibly continue litigation," he said.

"I think it is disrespectful to Judge Muller, the DEC, county, town and city taxpayers and the community."

The mayor said he is not buying the town's offer to sit down and discuss alternatives for the compost plant site.

"I keep hearing words like cooperate and communicate, but all I see are actions like litigate and pontificate," Kasprzak said.

The city has used Corporation Counsel John Clute to defend the town's suit, and the mayor estimates it has cost the city about $5,000 or $6,000.

"I find it perplexing that the town leaders have not offered any options to this situation other than to pursue lawsuits," the mayor said.

"That is not acceptable."

E-mail Joe LoTemplio at:

jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com

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