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Politics and Government

Seneca Falls bans landfills in attempt to focus more on tourism

For more than 30 years, the Seneca Meadows Landfill has operated in Seneca County. But a recently passed local law will close the landfill in nine years. The landfill provides jobs and revenue to the area, but some residents see this region moving in a different direction for its future.

The Seneca Falls Town Council passed Local Law 3 which bans landfills in Seneca Falls after 2025. Seneca Meadows Landfill District Manager Kyle Black said that law targets them and will essentially shut down their operation.

“As a taxpayer and a local person here that wants to see Seneca County, Seneca Falls, Waterloo, get back to what it used to be in its heyday, it absolutely worries me,” Black said.

The landfill employs about 75 people. Black described those jobs as good ones with benefits. And this area took a hit in good paying jobs with the loss of manufacturing and the closing of the Seneca Army Depot. The landfill pays taxes to the Waterloo School District and the town of Seneca Falls. The landfill also shares around five percent of its revenue with Seneca Falls totaling about $2-3 million a year.

“Seneca Falls has been able to continue to provide the great services and have this nice little small town adopt this tourism thing, by having our tax money supporting them,” Black said. "For the last 18-19 years, we've been a very major economic engine. When you look at the development that has happened in Seneca Falls and Waterloo, it's kind of all happened in this corridor here right by us. Landfills and Walmarts and other businesses can coexist."

Mary Sarratori is one of the town board council members that voted for banning landfills.

“I think it’s scary whenever we’re talking about money," Sarratori said. "I think that people get nervous when it comes to taxes and when it comes to having to raise taxes eventually.”

Sarratori said they did not want to keep choosing between money for the town and the negative elements of a landfill, such as the smell and the number of garbage trucks coming in and out. Seneca Falls acts as a gateway to the Finger Lakes.

“We’re really moving forward and turning into more of a tourist-based economy and business,” Sarratori said. "We really thought it was imperative to protect our town going forward so we're not in this position again where we're held a little captive by just one specific business. Since the law has been enacted I've heard mostly positive things from the community."

But Sarratori and another council member who voted for the ban lost in November’s election. Two new council members will be stepping in next year and this new local law could be reversed. Sarratori said she hopes that does not happen.