In conjunction with my interest in developments affecting the Metro Enviro site, I attended the public hearing of the Westchester County Solid Waste Commission (WCSWC) yesterday (Sept. 21) at the County Center in White Plains.
One topic on the agenda was the application before the WCSWC to license Northeast Interstate Railway LLC (NIR) for activity in Westchester County. There were also 3 other license applications on the agenda, two of which also involved Regus Industries.
The WCSWC has the mission to ensure that licensees in the County are of ‘good character, reputation and integrity’. They are also supposed to facilitate bringing new, ‘clean’ companies into the waste business in the County as a counter to organized crime in the industry.
Attendees from Croton were Village Attorney Marianne Stecich, Village Manager Richard Herbek, Trustees Jim Steinberg, Tom Brennan and Charlie Kane, Planning Board Chair Ann Gallelli, and residents Robert Wintermeier and Alice Kinny.
At the beginning of the meeting the Chair announced that this meeting had attracted more interest than any other since he had been on the commission. He announced that speakers and written comments would be permitted and recommended that the WCSWC not make a decision until the October meeting so they could consider any comments. He then turned it over to Bruce Berger, Executive Director of the WCSWC to make his report on the background of the applicants and his recommendations.
Mr. Berger recounted his research of all properties and operations under the ownership and/or control of Regus Industries. He also spoke about the principals involved, their backgrounds and credentials; identified where there had been violations, consent orders, transfers of ownership, etc. At the conclusion, he recommended in favor of the WCSWC granting the requested license.
Of the seven member commission, two or three asked follow up questions. The Chair then allowed speakers. First was Croton’s Village attorney Marianne Stecich. Ms. Stecich provided each member with copies of her brief which included exhibits as well and was about 40 pages in length. She then summarized the Village’s position (comments were limited to 4 minutes).
Most of the comments were to the point that Regus Industries had been involved in either an ownership or management capacity in the Warren Hills landfill in Ohio and how the serious violations, mishaps, consent orders and other environmental infractions that occurred there provided good reasons why they should not be allowed to operate in Croton.
Ms. Stecich was followed by Mr. Andreus Gruson, CEO of Regus Industries, who stated that Croton’s opposition was for local “political reasons”; that Croton was trying to besmirch the reputation of NIR by alluding to organized crime connections which were not true. He also stated that the absence of representatives of Mamaroneck or Mt. Kisco at this hearing was proof of Croton’s opposition being a local issue and not of broader concern to the other Westchester communities where NIR would also be operating.
Mr. Gruson stated that Croton simply did not want the operation in their village. He stated that NIR and Regus had survived the scrutiny of NJ authorities - far more rigorous. He was followed by Dennis Vacco, Vice President of Regus Industries and former Attorney General in New York. Mr. Vacco spoke mainly on the issues surrounding the Warren Hills Landfill in Ohio. He contended that Regus-controlled companies never owned the facility and,while they operated it for slightly more than a year, they left the operation because of not being able to clean it up as they had hoped due to changes in Ohio’s environmental regulations.
One commissioner, who I later learned was Larry Schwartz (Andrew Spano’s right hand man) asked whether NIR would give up their STB application if they were granted the County license. Mr. Vacco never really answered this directly but turned it around and said that while they had applied for the STB exemption, they were in front of the WCSWC to prove their commitment to comply with county and state regulations. He stated that NIR intends to be ‘monitored, scrutinized and regulated’. They would continue to seek STB exemption but have agreed to be bound by the WCSWC and the DEC.
Mr. Gruson then made another statement to the effect that Regus Industries was a ‘railroad logistics’ company and getting the STB certification was consistent with that; they had tried to meet with Croton officials but had been rebuffed in July by Special Counsel Gerrard speaking for the Village Board.
Trustee Steinberg then spoke briefly saying that if the STB exemption was granted, NIR would be exempt from local regulations and that he took exception to Mr. Gruson’s statement that Croton was slandering NIR or Regus.
Trustee Brennan also spoke briefly about Croton being a little village which had already spent a lot on this matter.
The last speaker was Perry Matrano, General Mgr. of Suburban Carting, who said he was speaking just as a resident. He applauded the Regus companies as being very concerned about operating sites correctly and hoped the license would be granted.
At that point Larry Schwartz pointed out that the WCSWC would decide the application on its merits but asked if it would not be possible for the two parties - Regus/NIR and Croton to meet and iron out their differences and reach some resolution on their own. Mr. Vacco stated that they had tried and been rebuffed since July. Ms. Stecich said she could not answer for the Board as it was their decision.
The WCSWC then moved to postpone the decision to the October 19 meeting. The Chair reiterated that the commission’s prime responsibility was to look at character of applicants.