An Erie County lawmaker's plan for a countywide policy on disposing of old tires has suffered a blowout.
Legislator Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, said Monday the county appears to lack the power to enact the type of sweeping legislation he envisioned. The problem boils down to potentially stepping on the toes of state and local government laws on tire dumping.
"I'm shocked and dismayed by this new information," Swanick said of a legal opinion by the county attorney's office on his plan.
Last summer, after several large tire fires and an increase in roadside tire dumping, Swanick proposed a uniform policy on tire disposal and storage with a fine of up to $2,500 for violations. Swanick also noted great differences in local policies on handling used tires with some municipalities picking them up on garbage day, others charging a fee for residents to dispose of them at a central collection site and a few refusing to handle tires at all.
He established the 15-member Tire Task Force to review the disparate rules in the county's cities, towns and villages and develop one, consistent countywide policy. But the legal opinion shows the county doesn't have the power to impose a law.
County Attorney Patrick H. NeMoyer said state Vehicle and Traffic Law already covers disposing of used tires on roadways and private property, and a section of state Environmental Conservation Law regulates businesses that store used tires. "The state has pre-empted the field with its own legislation, so the county can't step in in the way Mr. Swanick and others had hoped," NeMoyer said.
"What's really frustrating about all this is that we now find there are laws on the books," Swanick said. "But when is the last time you heard of anybody being ticketed or fined for dumping tires?"
Swanick pledged to continue his efforts. Under one possible approach, he noted, municipalities could rewrite their laws to incorporate similar standards.
"It will take a lot more work than simply putting a countywide law into effect, but I think most of the local officials would get behind it," he said.