Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Synagro quietly announces trucking operations will take place an additional 25 hours weekly at proposed Plainfield Township facility

At the November 29, 2017 review of Synagro's sketch plan, Synagro representative Jim Hecht was questioned about operating hours, and hours trucks would enter and exit the site.  He was also questioned about the amount of space available for storage of raw material (piles of crap).  Mr Hecht did not seem totally comfortable with the questions, and appeared genuinely confused why they were being asked.

The reason the questions were asked is that beginning at least in April 2017 at a Q&A session hosted by Synagro, Mr. Hecht stated that trucks will enter and leave the site during the hours that Grand Central operates, 7am-4pm M-F and 7am-9am on Saturday.  The plant would run 24/7.

At 400 tons of raw product daily, a hell of a lot of crap would have to be stored so that processing could continue from 9am Saturday to 7am on Monday - almost 800 tons.  300 tons of water is removed from 400 tons of sludge, and beginning in November 2017 Synagro stated it would store and haul waste water off site. Why the concept of storage of both solids and liquids and operating hours was foreign to Mr. Hecht is a bit of a concern - it is obvious what the issue is.

After the November review, Mr. Hecht wrote a follow-up letter on December 12, 2017, confirming that the hours trucks would operate were as discussed at the November meeting, 7am-4pm M-F and 7am-9am Sat..  Here is the letter - but a warning - what he states in it changed by February's meeting.

At the February 2018 Land Development review of the latest and greatest Synagro plan, Mr. Hecht was questioned again about operating hours and his reply changed to 6am to 6pm M-S, six days a week.  Huh, so there was an issue.  Mr. Hecht is the "project developer"!

In the December letter, Mr. Hecht states that raw product will arrive "covered" and much is stated about odor control on site.  At the February 2018 meeting, it was admitted that the "cover" on incoming trucks is a tarp, which will not control odors during transportation on local roads.

Waste Management appears to be planning to not honor its commitment to relinquish use of the Plainfield Township Recreational Trail segment that it was graciously allowed to temporarily use by agreement in 1997.  What else will change by the time this proposal's review is complete?  The addition of 25 more hours that trucks will operate is a very significant detail - one that Mr. Hecht got wrong as recently as December 2017.

Time to refurbish Green Knight Economic Development Corporation - meeting its members' goals, but not the communities' or its stated mission

The Green Knight Economic Development Corporation came into being as a non-profit in 1999 because Waste Management could not convert its landfill gas to electricity and sell to the electric utility itself.

The plan for GKEDC's  Energy Center included the desire to sell waste heat to a business that would locate in the "Slate Belt Industrial Center" - a 19 acre plot that originally was to host three separate commercial operations and is today Techo-Bloc.  Green Knight likes to taut Techo-Bloc as a success but in reality was an embarrassing development failure that struggled to break even.  The Northampton County Industrial Development Authority chipped in money, but no tenants appeared, and certainly none that wanted to consume waste heat.  The only winner in this debacle was J.G. Petrucci, who swept in at the 11th hour and erected the building, and had one tenant (Techo-Bloc) wanting eagerly to move in to the entire site.  Instead of three sites sold, it was one, and there were zero customers for Green Knight's waste heat.

This is where Green Knight's surplus waste heat was to be delivered
Became Techo-Bloc after no one else was interested

Fast forward 17 to18 years, and Green Knight is spinning the arrival of Synagro's proposed crap bakery as the "culmination of a vision".  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The plan never included continuation of a waste processing operation on Waste Management's property, or to supply waste heat to such an operation.  The plan was to attract good businesses nearby, with significant numbers of good paying quality jobs.  Waste Management representative John Hambrose claims that Synagro will have engineer(s) on site.  Really?  A lone engineer at an outpost processing 400 tons of crap daily?  A small to medium-sized tech firm this is most certainly not. Would I want my son or daughter working there?  No, Mr. Hambrose, I would not.

Waste Management's director of landfill gas to energy Mark Messics said in 2001 that the selling of the Green Knight Energy Center's waste heat "would be gravy" over and above the profit of selling electricity to the grid.  Maybe no one at GKEDC or WM has noticed, but the communities affected and surrounding aren't interested in sucking up confiscation of Plainfield Township's property and putting up with odors and air pollution and reduced property values so that gravy can be made for Waste Management and GKEDC.
2001 quote of Waste Management landfill gas to energy director Mark Messics

GKEDC's charter called for a 9 member board, with members comprised of three residents from each of Pen Argyl, Wind Gap and Plainfield Township.  Today, there are eight members, one who lives in Wind Gap, two in Pen Argyl, and five in Plainfield Township.

Carlton Snyder (President)                          John Cuono
Wind Gap Resident                                         Pen Argyl Resident
Robert Cornman (Vice-President)               Larry Feller
Plainfield Township Resident                           Pen Argyl Resident
Peter Albanese (Treasurer)                         John Goffredo
Plainfield Township Resident                           Plainfield Township Resident
Steve Hurni (Secretary)                               Jim Policeli, PE
Plainfield Township Resident                           Plainfield Township Resident

If the charter is inconvenient, just change it
What happened?  First, about five years ago it was questioned that Peter Albanese was using an address he does not live at in Wind Gap to justify his representation of Wind Gap - although he lives in Plainfield Township.  To solve the issue GKEDC didn't do the right thing, but rather simply changed its charter so that if someone has a business interest in a community they "represent it".  That sounds like bull shit for a few reasons.

GKEDC board member solves business concern by resigning, not coming out against Synagro
Second, Stephen Ruggiero, who owns Ruggiero Funeral Home in Pen Argyl reportedly decided that promoting a crap bakery was not compatible with profitably operating a funeral home that brags about its clientele and standing in the community, and he resigned from the GKEDC board over a year ago.  Rumor is that no other Pen Argyl businessperson is interested in being associated with GKEDC's effort to site a crap bakery in the community's backyard - which is why there continues to be an 8 member board.  One representative for Wind Gap, two for Pen Argyl and five for Plainfield Township.

Wind Gap has only one resident GKEDC representative - another resigned for similar reason
John T Dally Jr, son of the former mayor of Pen Argy and Pen Argyl Area School Board member, was a long-time GKEDC member through at least 2016, but resigned.  John is a local real estate agent; and it is reported that he also resigned because he was concerned that association with the Synagro project would hurt his real estate business.  No shit, pun intended.

Think of an alternative, where GKEDC dis-invited Synagro, and Ruggiero and Dally Jr. would have rejoined or still be on the board, and it would have more equal but not equal representation .  Green Knights would have improved their standing in the community - not shit-canned it permanently.

GKEDC board is not listening to the communities
It is patently obvious that GKEDC's board is no longer representative of the community in any way shape or form.   Mr. Ruggiero and Mr. Dally Jr., apparently not out of allegiance to their community but rather their balance sheets, hit the road.  There is neither equal representation of each community, nor respect of the wishes of the communities.  No one wants the Synagro plant, except GKEDC, Waste Management and Synagro.  It's like GKEDC board members are deaf, dumb and blind.  They act as though residents are "missing the big picture" of tax revenue and jobs.  But that is not true - residents are not idiots.  16 jobs, the vast majority crap pushers, and $50,000 plus or minus tax revenue (but not to Pen Argyl or Wind Gap) is not worth it to the thousands who will be affected by the proposed plant.  Close neighbors will have to put up with odors and truck noise (Synagro just announced that truck activity will be 6am to 6pm six days a week, up from the operating hours of the dump).  Motorists will have to travel behind "tarped" trucks hauling shit, and even has Synagro admitted the odor will not be contained by tarps.  As solid waste management supervisor Tracey McGurk at DEP has stated "we may not be able to discriminate between odors from Synagro and Waste Management when complaints are received."  Residents will be affected and screwed, they know it, and they are saying 'no mas" to more solid waste processing.  It's very simple.

Why haven't members of Green Knight acknowledged the deep-throated and comprehensive rejection of Synagro's proposal by the community they supposedly exist to benefit?

Let's take a closer look at the GKEDC board.  It appears that members are appointed for life - unless they quit.  Three members, Robert Cornman Jr, Steve Hurni, and Jim Policelli are former members of Plainfield Township's Planning Commission.  Hurni and Policelli left the township board in the late 1990's, leaving Cornman to handle Waste Management and Green Knight's interests.  As chairman and member of the township planning commission, Mr.Cornman was uniquely positioned to be responsible for understanding and drafting amendments to the township zoning ordinance.  Very odd indeed is that in 1999 and again in 2016 he pushed for a non-permitted use (energy center in 1999 and Synagro plant in 2016) to be located where Waste Management's recycling area is currently located.  He knew in November 2016 (certainly after rejection of 1999's plan) that Synagro's use was not permitted where planned, and still pushed for the planning commission to approve the plan.

Mr. Policelli writes almost monthly letters to the Express Times, denying the existence of global warming.  Yet Green Knight awards scholarships to young people based on "environmental stewardship" according to the GKEDC website.  Mr. Policelli appears to believe in a flavor of environmental stewardship similar to Ms. Trudy Johnston when it comes to shit, and when it comes to the atmosphere that sustains our lives keep your regulations to yourself..  Policelli has never once in his letters to the Express Times identified himself at a member of GKEDC.

Mr. Hurni as a Plainfield Township supervisor has to maintain an unbiased position on Synagro's application, yet is rumored to have said to a neighbor "I don't see what all the fuss is about."  That speaks volumes.

Carlton Snyder has been president of GKEDC since 1999.  A retired electronics technician, whose most notable contribution to a lot of people seems to be his hat.  Mr. Carlton has said that GKEDC looked at certain factors before agreeing to partner with Synagro.  Did GKEDC ever consider the wishes, the welfare and well being of citizens?  The property values of those who reside nearby?  The fact that the current proposal is to take use of Plainfield Township's Recreational Trail for an unknown number of decades beyond what was intended to be use until the landfill closes?

John Cuono has run a Pen Argyl barber shop since taking it over from his father in 1963.  Unlike Mr. Ruggiero, it appears Mr. Cuono has no fear of losing business due to Green Knight's partnership with Synagro.  The relationship between a hair stylist and customers is a close one.  Or perhaps he dreams of retirement.  Cuomo is also the chairman of the Pen Argyl Sewer Authority, so he has a pre-existing condition with shit.  Well John, the shit has really hit the fan this time.

Larry Feller is a chemist, and don't question his usefulness - he is one of two Pen Argyl residents on the board - his mere existence provides Pen Argyl at least 67% of the representation it deserves.

Peter Albanese and John Goffredo both live in Plainfield Township, are both in contracting, and purportedly represent Wind Gap on GKEDC.  They show up at numerous Wind Gap meetings singing the praises of the Green Knight Industrial Park II.- the former Beers property where millions of tires were dumped.  Mr. Albanese is a principal in Wind Gap Electric, Mr. Goffredo is a principal of Nu Cor Management - a construction management company.  Green Knight's scheme at GKIP II was to buy the property for cheap, put a minimal investment into it to create roads and lots, and then sell lots and the buyer will have to develop his own lot.  The state and county have given grants and loans of millions of dollars to assist the project.

GKEDC members associated with contracts at both the Energy Center and YMCA
Let's rewind.  When the Green Knight Energy Center was built, Goffredo's family company MSG Associates Inc did the construction, and MSG Associates was affiliated with John Goffredo's Nu Cor Management at that time.  Wind Gap Electric did the electrical work on the energy center.

When the YMCA was built, funded by a grant of $1m by Green Knight and more by the state, guess who did the electrical work?  Yes, Wind Gap Electric.  Guess who did the construction?  Nu Cor Management.  All in the Family - sweet.  Was the YMCA project competitively bid?  This article says that John Goffredo was "asked" to be involved in the YMCA project - hmm.

On the GKEDC website, it is stated that GKEDC does everything possible to use local labor and provide local firms.  It also states the Directors do not receive compensation.  Hmm.  If I sit on the board, and my company gets a contract to work on a GKEDC project, am I receiving compensation?

Rumor is that John Goffredo has made it known he would be interested in his company participating in building out the infrastructure of the Green Knight Industrial Park II.  Let's hope that since state and county dollars are involved, that the job will be competitively bid.  Did that happen with the construction contract for the energy center?  The electric contract for the Y?

Here is what Green Knight Economic Development Corporation tells the IRS its mission is, every year when it submits its required 990 form:
Peter Albanese states his address is Wind Gap - it is not.  It also is not Wind Gap Electric's address

"Provide economic relief for poor and distressed citizens" is the mission according to the 990.  On their website, it states that the mission is to "provide help to local organizations."  Let's look at the relief and help that GKEDC has given recently.  Here are their grants for the last four years, as reported to the IRS:

* Scholarships are estimated to be 12 running concurrently, at $1,000 a year each per cumulative data on the GKEDC website ($200,000 over 17 years)

That's some support, but it pales in comparison to what took place before around 2011.  It used to be that GKEDC would issue grants for 20 to 25 causes a year, with about $5000 going to each and over $100,000 distributed annually.  Like equipment and uniforms for school teams where a youngster's family could not afford them, as well as a host of other causes.  $32,000 to $37,000 a year in grants and scholarships seems reflective of GKEDC transitioning to another mission - commercial development that could possibly benefit their own board members if the chips fall right.  $133K total giving in four years is pocket change on $7.1m in revenue.
Graphic based on picture found in GKEDC website
In 2006 there were over 15 grant recipients - in recent years, there have been one or two
In 2007, grants were made to 11 recipients in Wind Gap alone, $97,000 plus scholarships for approximately $109,000 - approaching the entire four-year total from 2013 to 2016

Perhaps GKEDC has also changed the mission in its charter .  No one has seen a copy of the charter, but GKEDC states each year that its governing documents are "available to the public".  Perhaps it is time for someone to inspect said documents - before the charter is changed to make them private.

Green Knight's governing documents are stated to be available for public inspection
but the charter is as elusive as President Trump's tax returns...

GKEDC (and WM) acting like past didn't happen and commitments do not matter
Why is it that all the people on GKEDC and the people at the landfill (Scott Perin and his father Nolan who have both attended Synagro's review meetings) are not admitting that Waste Management's agreement to temporarily use the Plainfield Township Recreational Trail was to expire when the landfill closes?  Not a single one has been heard to utter this in public.  The expectation appears to be that Plainfield Township will stand idly by and let its land be absconded.

Why is it that GKEDC is not acknowledging that the plan was never to extend the life of waste processing on the WM property?  The plan was to close the landfill, recover the area as green space.  Instead, they are participating in attempting to partner with Synagro, and costing Plainfield Township residents likely well over $100,000 already in legal and consulting fees to do what Green Knight should have done for free - fought this proposal.

It is said that portraits of the GKEDC members hang in the Energy Center.  Can you imagine?

Who will get the contracts to build the Synagro facility if it is approved?
Should residents even have to concern themselves with this question?  Green Knight casts itself as a champion of local firms and local labor, but who benefits from these contracts?  Is a construction contract going to "trickle down" to the ambulance company, the Boy Scouts, the fire company, the bugle corps?  No - it is going to mostly benefit the contracting company owners.  The benefit to "poor and distressed" citizens comes not from temporary jobs, but from direct contributions as GKEDC did in the past.

Moving forward together, not as Dictator and Subservient residents 
It is evident that Green Knight is not fulfilling its charter, and it is not acting in the best interest of the residents of the Pen Argyl, Wind Gap and Plainfield Township communities.  These changes are needed:
  1. Tell Synagro sorry, but the community doesn't want us to partner with you, and besides, selling the waste heat was seen as "gravy" on top of profit according to Waste Management.  The community does not want a poop train in return for Waste Management and GKEDC's gravy train.
  2. Return to the original mission of benefiting poor and distressed citizens.
  3. Distribute funds to more causes each year, as was done previously.
  4. Institute term limits.  
  5. Represent each community equally as was originally prescribed.
  6. The Plainflield Township Board of Supervisors and Pen Argyl and Wind Gap Borough Councils should appoint their community's municipal representatives on GKEDC, not be left with a bunch of self-appointed and self-serving yahoos.
  7. Open GKEDC board meetings to the public. 
  8. Require a competitive bidding process for any development projects, regardless of the funding source.
  9. Stop issuing contracts to companies associated in any manner with GKEDC.