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Thirteen years after public opposition forced the Common Council to scuttle a plan to impose a garbage user fee, the Council is considering it again.

But this time, the fee would be imposed only on downtown businesses, along with churches and other tax-exempt properties that in effect receive free garbage service.

The businesses pay taxes, but they also have city garbage collection seven days a week, not once a week as residents do.

Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, said the proposal -- the only way the fee could lawfully be charged to otherwise tax-exempt properties -- is being discussed with the Citizens Advisory Committee. He added that the proposal is not likely to appear on the Council agenda until early next year.

"It is something we need to address," said Council President John Lombardi III, R-5th Ward. "We talked about it during the budget deliberations. . . . There's a lot of potential revenue there."

"When I was on the Council in the '90s, we always talked about it," Mayor Michael W. Tucker said. "I think the time has come to stop talking about it and see if we can do something."

Still, Tucker didn't seem optimistic, adding, "I don't know if the end product will be something I can support."

Schrader said he has a list of about 64 tax-exempt properties. If each was charged $200 a year, the city would collect $12,800. "It definitely would cost them more than that to get a Dumpster," he said.

He said the Town of Lockport charges residents about $189 a year for garbage collection, and doesn't serve businesses.

"The downtown (City of) Lockport business people, they've had it pretty good all these years," said Gerald P. DeFlippo, president of the Lockport Business Association. "People in other areas have to pay through the nose. . . . The way the taxes are going up, (the aldermen) have to do something."

The Council will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday on a 2005 budget that includes a 6.9 percent property tax increase. The budget does not assume any revenue from a new garbage fee.


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