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BFI APPEARS RESIGNED TO DEFEAT FIRM CHANGING FOCUS AFTER REBUFF IN LACKAWANNA

A proposal to build a medical waste treatment facility in Lackawanna is all but dead, an official of BFI Waste Systems has confirmed.

The company previously said that it might try to pursue the project even after it was rejected by the City Council in February.

But BFI has decided since against pursuing it and instead is concentrating its efforts on locating a plant in the Chautauqua County Town of Sheridan, BFI Vice President David Balbierz said this week.

Balbierz, however, refused to rule out the possibility that someday BFI might try again in Lackawanna.

"Never say never," he said.

After the Lackawanna City Council on Feb. 15 voted 4-1 against the $2.6 million project, company officials said that they might challenge the decision in court.

The officials and attorneys said at the time that a challenge was possible on the grounds that the vote was taken despite the company's request that the matter be withdrawn from consideration at that time.

Another contention was that the vote amounted to a blanket rejection of the proposal rather than a true consideration of whether the project would have been consistent with the city's long-range waterfront development plan, the company said.

BFI has decided against going to court, Balbierz said.

"We don't want to go where we're not wanted," he added.

"It became too hot a political issue," he said, referring to widespread citizen opposition voiced at several public meetings.

The fact that the BFI proposal came at the same time that Oxford Energy Co. was proposing a tire-burning energy plant also hurt the project, Balbierz said. Opponents argued that the two projects would help make the city a dumping ground.

The Oxford proposal remains alive. The company is seeking state environmental licensing approval before asking the Council to vote on whether its project would be consistent with the waterfront plan.

Cheryl Panfil, secretary of the group formed to fight the proposals, Thursday said "good riddance" to BFI. Her organization, Citizens for Lackawanna's Future, now plans to concentrate on opposing the Oxford project, she said.

Mayor Thomas E. Radich, who says he favors both projects as long as they can prove that they meet environmental standards, said he hopes BFI will someday reconsider Lackawanna.

"I hope to see them come back again," he said.

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