Journal News (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) (pg. 4A)  [Printer-friendly version]
October 5, 2006


By Brian J. Howard

PEEKSKILL -- A judge has struck down a bid by Peekskill to require trash haulers from other communities to pay to travel on city streets.In a Sept. 18 ruling, state Supreme Court Justice Joan Lefkowitz called a 2004 city law unconstitutional and in violation of state vehicle and traffic laws barring municipalities from imposing fees for the use of public roads, Yorktown Town Attorney Kevin Sweeney said.

At the time it was adopted, the local law affected 3,000 trucks a year that delivered to Karta Recycling and to Westchester RESCO, the county's waste-to-energy incinerator at Charles Point.

"It was ridiculous right from the beginning," said Councilman Nicholas Bianco of Yorktown, one of four municipalities that sued to overturn the law. "I'm sorry for Peekskill, but it really was a ridiculous thing for them to do. Let's get into the spirit of cooperation."

Cortlandt, Buchanan and Croton-on-Hudson were also parties to the suit.

Peekskill cited wear and tear of city roads and pollution created by leaky, overfilled trucks. Drivers, who faced fines of up to $1,000 for failing to obtain the $250 annual permit, also opposed the law. The Construction Industry Council of Westchester and the Hudson Valley filed a separate suit.

The city would have to refund any fees collected before an injunction was obtained after the law was adopted. Yorktown stands to recoup $2,250 in permit fees.

A similar law on the books in Peekskill since the 1960s was struck down in 2004.

Peekskill Councilman Don Bennett said the city gets stuck with the bill to clean up the mess and road damage inflicted by other municipalities' trucks and by private haulers.

Opponents argued that a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement for the RESCO plant was compensation enough for any costs incurred by trucks going to the plant. But Bennett said the PILOT agreement was never intended to compensate for those costs.

He said the city was exploring whether a tipping fee surcharge could be implemented at RESCO to compensate the city. Karta Recycling has substantially downsized since the trash hauler permit law was adopted.

"All we're looking for is a fair outcome to this," Bennett said, "so that we can maintain our quality of life on our streets and, at the same time, be fair to our neighbors."

Copyright (c) The Journal News