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DGS workers unite over job loss threat

April 2, 2012

by Joe Napoli

More than 150 members of the Department of General Services, some with their families, gathered at the Albany Common Council meeting on Monday night to support the second expansion of the Rapp Road landfill.

DSG workers outside city hall/Joe Napoli

Their treasurer, Steven Williams, said if the financial plan to expand the landfill was not approved,  “there will be the equivalent of 85 layoffs.” He added that hundreds of family members of the general services workers would also be affected.

The first ordinance the department of general service workers supported is to allow the city to borrow $7 million to build the landfill’s final cell. The second ordinance, which is more time sensitive, and would have a potentially immediate impact on their jobs, is for $2.35 million to fund the restoration of the Pine Bush.

Mayor Jerry Jennings, Monday evening, announced a deal had been reached, while speaking to members of Albany’s Department of General Services.

Both ordinances passed, the first one 10 to 3, and the second 11 to 2. The first approval elicited a long clap of approval from the general services workers, who were praised by many of the council members for quality work that they do for the city.

The approval of bonding has postponed potential job loss, and ensured the landfill will be running until 2021.

The landfill has been a contentious issue between the city council and Mayor Jennings for many years. The tension was reignited last Wednesday when the Common Council’s

Finance Committee voted for their colleagues not to support the landfill’s bonding. Jennings responded to the vote Friday morning on Talk 1300 radio. “Our council members have to think a little bit more maturely than some of them are thinking,” he said. “I expect them to support us.”

DGS worker Sherman Gilbert was proud that the five different departments of the DGS “showed up as a united front.” Gilbert said the workers need to “find a way to keep the landfill open because all of the departments depend on the landfill.”

Grace Nickels, from the advocacy group Save the Pine Bush, was opposed to the two ordinances, though she emphasized that “the environmentalists are pro-jobs.” Nickels said the committee needs to think of new ways to create job growth and preserve the Pine bush through recycling renewal innovation.

Save the Pine Bush is in opposition of what they deem is the contamination of the Pine Bush by the Rapp Road landfill.

“The landfill has a life expectancy of 10 years,” said Albany resident Vincent Russo. He says the city has no plan on what they will do about their garbage issues after that. He supports the bonding, however, because he does not want any workers laid off.

Council member Barbara Smith voted against both ordinances. “The fiscal management of the landfill has always been murky.” Smith is uncertain of if the landfill is profitable, and was highly skeptical of the $11 million it is said to bring in annually. She also wondered why the situation had become so dire DGS’s jobs were at risk of being cut.

In a surprising move, Council member Frank Commisso Jr., believed to oppose the bonding, voted for its approval. “Yes I’m voting for the bonding tonight,” he said. “Was it a great deal? No”

Though he approved the bonding, he stated that the city needs to find a solution that does not include more borrowing. “This practice of borrowing from the future has to end at some point.”

Council members Dominick Calsolaro, Smith, and Commisso expression disapproval of the mayor using the threat of DGS’s loss of jobs, as leverage for the approval of the bonding.
Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin, posed a question to the workers after bonding approval. “What is your future when the landfill closes,” she said. “What can advanced recycling do for the city?”

Calsolaro questioned the mayor’s leadership, and what the plan is for the future of the Rapp Road landfill. “There is no plan.” Council member Michael O’Brien credited the city for having a 47 percent recycling rate for 2012, and believes the waste diversion and recycling rate can be up to 65 percent by 2016, which is the goal per the Capital Region Solid Waste Management Partnership Planning Unit. -30-


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