PHARSALIA – While construction of a fifth cell at the Chenango County landfill moves ahead, new numbers are rolling in that show a nearly $2 million project increase caused by high gas prices and rising inflation.
Cell five now comes with a nearly $7.3 million price tag, up from the original $5.5 million estimated when county officials approved the project in 2020. But the county says work will continue despite cost increases. Officials are working closely with Barton and Loguidice, the engineering firm contracted to build the fifth cell, and hope to have work completed by late fall of 2023.
“This is quite a lengthy process, and inflation and fuel have driven up costs quite a bit,” said Chenango County DPW Director Shawn Fry, citing oil prices as the chief concern. “The original estimate was done when diesel fuel was just under $2. Now diesel fuel is almost $6. That’s driving the cost up dramatically.”
Fry says the high price of oil has also inflated the cost of oil-based products, like plastics, that are needed for construction. Engineers use plastic sheathing to compartmentalize each landfill cell into smaller sections.
“Those costs are dramatically higher because of oil costs,” he said.
Regardless of rising costs, the county says it’s still on solid financial footing. Roughly 60 percent of the project will be paid with $4.5 million in funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The county also plans to draw an additional $1 million from its general surplus fund, while the remaining costs of the project will be covered by collected landfill fees.
“We don’t want to borrow anything,” said Chenango County Treasurer Bill Craine. “We’re on top of it. We would rather not see the inflation; but if it happens, we have the rainy day funds put away for that purpose, subject to board approval.”
“The new estimate is a conservative high,” said Fry, adding that although Barton and Loguidice factored in inflation with their original estimate, it didn’t account for the record inflation seen this year. “They’re hoping costs will actually be lower, but they want to make sure they cover all their bases.”
In the meantime, the county DPW is doing some site work itself. A five-man crew is currently trucking dirt from the cell five site to an adjacent property that was purchased by the county with the intent of ultimately saving taxpayers money.
“The more soil we can move [ourselves], the less we have to pay a contractor to do it,” said Fry.
Cell five at the landfill is projected to last the next six to eight years, depending on a number of factors which include garbage volume and the amount of construction debris received. Officials hope to send contracting bids out by October and select a contractor by November so that construction can begin by next spring.
Chenango County previously contracted with Barton and Loguidice to construct the landfill’s fourth cell in 2014. The county landfill is permitted by the DEC to have a maximum of seven cells. Depending on the rate at which landfill cells fill up – which is often influenced by large-scale building projects in the county – officials expect another 20-30 years before reaching capacity at the Pharsalia landfill.
In 2014, the Chenango County Board of Supervisors approved a reserve account to close the Pharsalia landfill facility. The New York State Department of Conservation requires that funds be set aside to close the facility once it reaches capacity.