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ONE THING REMAINS PERFECTLY CLEAR: GARBAGE BAGS

The Hamburg Village Board spent less time explaining and adopting the 2001-02 budget Tuesday night than it did discussing the issue of clear plastic garbage bags.

The $6.1 million budget carries a tax rate of $11.75 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up 33 cents per $1,000, or 2.9 percent. The first tax increase in four years is mainly because of the increase in the costs of fuel and insurance. The sewer fee will remain at $201 per unit.

The budget includes an increase of $75,000 for new sidewalks, bringing the total of sidewalk-replacement funds to $100,000.

"The No. 1 concern residents said they had was the condition of the sidewalks," Village Administrator David W. Fountaine said, referring to a residential survey.

There will be $8,000 spent on new trees for the village, which is double what was spent this year. Capital expenditures include $180,000 for street refurbishment, $120,000 for a snowplow truck, $65,000 for a sidewalk snowplow and $95,000 for sewer upgrades on Pine Street and McKinley Parkway.

The budget includes no raises for the mayor and the trustees, whose pay will remain at $9,500 and $5,000, respectively.

Before the board passed the budget, the requirement for clear plastic garbage bags was debated again during the work session.

Mark A. Diegelman of Huntington Court had written to the board telling it that he has put his garbage into brown paper bags with no problem until this month, when Public Works Department crews rejected it. Village officials told him that the brown paper bags are to be recycled, not used as trash receptacles.

The requirement for clear plastic garbage bags, enacted in June 1999, was reinstated Feb. 1.

Diegelman said he was told that it would be acceptable if he picked the paper bags of garbage out of the can and dumped their contents into the can.

"I was a silent citizen on this because for 22 years my garbage in paper bags was picked up," Diegelman said. "When they're soiled, they cannot be recycled."

"Our collectors are fair, and they're nonbiased," said Public Works Superintendent Gerald E. Knoll. "It's not to be punitive in any fashion."

Mayor John S. Thomas said: "I really think this has become nothing more than political. Nobody was trying to punish anybody. We did this for the common good."

Trustee Margaret Moses, who was elected after the board approved the requirement for clear plastic bags in 1999, said recycling could be encouraged by better education of residents.

"We could have done it in other ways than clear plastic bags," she said. "I do find it offensive. I think we could have done a better job."

Village Attorney Robert G. Walsh said the village was a Johnny-come-lately to the requirement for clear plastic bags, which is in place in about 400 communities in New York.

"I don't understand how 400 communities in New York State can do this without a problem," Thomas said.

"Maybe they don't harass their residents," said Bonnie Meyer of Huntington Court.

The mayor said that the village would see how Onondaga County enforces its requirement for clear plastic bags but that it would not be a good idea to make an exception right now.

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