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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dunmore: Tell Me, Who REALLY Is To Blame?

Interesting article in the Scranton Times today about how the owners of the Keystone Sanitary Landfill are not likely to re-negotiate the fee they pay the borough of Dunmore for partially hosting the facility.

You can read the article HERE.

The cheap-n-easy thing to do here is to blame the landfill and the DeNaples family. Cheap-n-easy yes, but not necessarily correct.

Let’s pretend: You set up a business arrangement whereby a neighbor allows you to use their property in exchange for a fee you pay monthly. You honor you end of the bargain by paying the fee every month and occasionally also buy the neighbor a cake as a gesture of good will. Your neighbor though is notorious for spending more money than he has. He buys brand new cars every year, goes out to dinner almost nightly and just generally doesn’t think about how his spending impacts his overall finances. Then one day your neighbor maxes out on his credit cards and can’t get any more loans. No more money for eating out. No more new cars. He comes to you and basically says “Hey look, I am out of money and I can’t get any more credit, so I need you to pay me more, okay?”. Tell me, would your response be:

a) I’m sorry you have screwed up your life…here’s some more money.
b) Pound sand…we made this deal in good faith and I had nothing to do with your decisions to over-spend.

I think most of us would pick some version of ‘b’.

The issue here isn’t Mr DeNaples, as it seems to me that he has lived up to his end of the deal. Why should he renegotiate the landfill fees? Is it his fault that the borough of Dunmore has mismanaged its finances all these years? If anything, perhaps Mr DeNaples has been too generous over the years, almost creating a situation whereby the borough expects him to come to the rescue whenever the going gets tough. It’s the classic “feeding the stray cat” syndrome.

I’m not trying to be a Louis DeNaples apologist here; I don’t know the man and besides I don’t think he actually needs my help. Did he get a sweetheart deal on the fees in the first place? Maybe, but then again he didn’t unilaterally set them: that was negotiated between the borough and the landfill. If the fees are too low, it’s the fault of the borough officials who cut this deal in the first place, just as it’s the fault of borough officials all these years for over-spending.

At worst, you can fault Mr DeNaples for being a good businessman by getting the best deal possible for the landfill. Contrast that against borough leadership, who seem intent on getting the worst possible deals for taxpayers. Given the choice, I’m siding with Mr DeNaples.

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