Thursday, August 21, 2008

Montgomery County’s Withdrawal from “MOSA” Spells Disaster for Regional Acronym

Because of Montgomery County’s go-it-alone attitude when it comes to solid waste removal, the Montgomery Otsego Schoharie Authority (MOSA) could cease to exist by 2014, less than six years from now. Luckily, the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors has begun soberly contemplating the implications of such a move. By far, the biggest concern of Supervisors is that without Montgomery County’s membership in the regional solid waste removal authority, it couldn’t rightfully be called “MOSA” (pronounced Moe-zuh).

Lacking the critical “M”, the authority now would be known as “OSA”. While OSA is certainly a memorable acronym, it clearly doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as mellifluously as MOSA does. Several supervisors mentioned the possibility of pronouncing it “O-S-A”, rather than as one word. But that drew complaints as sounding too non-distinctive and bureaucratic. I agree.

While the withdrawal of Montgomery County would be disastrous enough, there are also reports that Otsego County may follow suit. This would spell irreparable damage for the “MOSA” acronym. Without the “M” and “O” of Montgomery and Otsego counties respectively, MOSA would become “SA”, which can scarcely be considered an acronym! It’s only two letters, and its hard to see how they could be fashioned into a word that flows off the tongue as gracefully as “MOSA”.

I don’t know about Montgomery County and Otsego County, but I like to think that us folks in Schoharie County appreciate a good acronym when we see one. To Montgomery County officials opposed to renewing MOSA, I say, the next time you utter the word “MOSA”, know that it is the sweet sound of regional partnership and people working together. Montgomery County’s membership in “MOSA” is simply irreplaceable.

No really, I checked a map for counties that border Schoharie and there are no others that start with “M”.


Anonymous said...

Your analysis of the MOSA problem would range from amusing to hilarious were it not for the fact that some people take things literally and will believe that Montgomery and Otsego counties could withdraw and leave Schoharie the sole proprietor, as it were. That, of course, cannot happen. The issues are many, complex, and deserve thoughtful study and comment.

I have been a close observer of MOSA since before it was created in 1987 and have extensive document and news files on it and its predecessors. What is most hilarious is that Montgomery County is the principal whiner here. Officials in Fonda should consult Donald Adamowski, James Ottati and other Montgomery officials of the 1980s to refresh themselves on how they burdened two neighbors with the immensely costly liabilities associated with closing old landfills and establishing new ones.

In short, Montgomery had landfills that had to be closed by 1991 and Schoharie and Otsego had no nearby place for their trash. A four-county study was conducted (the fourth being Fulton) and the engineers said a regional approach would be most cost-effective. Montgomery seized the opportunity to pass ownership -- and closure -- of its landfills to the users, along with all the equipment and personnel. Fulton backed out and Otsego nearly did the same. A regional trash incinerator and radioactive waste disposal were discussed and the public was up in arms.

Montgomery County had Schoharie by the short hair and Otsego had no place to go, so they signed on. Montgomery officials, who had the landfill operating experience, took over MOSA and, as MOSA officials, negotiated sweetheart prices to Montgomery County for junk equipment and nearly closed landfills that were then little more than liabilities. MOSA floated bonds to pay Montgomery County whopping sums for huge liabilities and equipment that needed to be replaced. Montgomery County was a prime recipient of a costly largesse that now burdens MOSA. Then, MOSA floated more bonds to pay for engineering studies for a new landfill that was never built.

Are bond issuers stupid? Hell, no. The three member counties (members by state law) signed service agreements that essentially guarantee the bonds. No one is off the financial hook until the bonds are paid off and when that happens, MOSA's costs will go down. Believe that when you see it! Schoharie and Otsego had no bargaining power and Montgomery put the blocks to them to the tune of millions of dollars. Now, Montgomery does not want to pay the fiddler who played their tune.

Other than paying off the debt, the real issue is, what happens with the trash when/if MOSA closes down? Answer: Private haulers will pay market prices and we’ll be at their mercy instead of MOSA’s. I can’t think there will be much cost difference to the end user.

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