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Modern Disposal Services has agreed to restore weekly recycling pickup for city residents and to assist the city in trying to double the dismal 10 percent participation rate in the first three years of the program.

Modern will provide advertising dollars and assign its recycling marketing director nearly full time to the city in a joint educational outreach program to encourage citizens to recycle. If successful, the effort would result in reduced disposal fees and increased credits for keeping recyclables out of landfills.

In addition, Mayor Irene J. Elia and City Administrator Albert T. Joseph said the city will crack down on illegal dumping by installing video cameras at persistent problem spots, suspending contractors' licenses for 90 days if they are caught, and issuing citations to owners of properties where the debris continually piles up.

The agreements came out of a meeting Wednesday between city officials and Gary E. Smith, vice president of Modern. The meeting was a follow-up to one a few weeks ago when Elia told Smith to sharpen his pencil to increase recycling pickups and reduce costs, he said.

The extension of Modern's contract with the city, approved in the last days of then-Mayor James C. Galie's administration, included a cost reduction achieved by reducing recycling pickup to every other week. Elia had tried to block the four-year extension, saying she did not like the terms, and asked the City Council to give her 90 days to renegotiate. The mayor said Wednesday that she was encouraged by Modern's response.

"We want the city clean. We want a fair price. Hey, you can have the contract for 100 years as long as it doesn't take advantage of the city," she told Smith and Joseph M. Hickman, sales manager.

In addition to agreeing to the long-range plan to increase participation, Smith said, Modern will increase the $2.50-per-ton credit for recyclables to $11.50. The city received a credit of about $8,000 last year for recycling 3,200 tons of material. If the city had reached 4,000 tons, the rate would have been $7.50.

Smith said he told city officials late last year that they should go out and find 800 tons of recyclables just to collect the $30,000.

The recycling program, which the Galie administration touted as the selling point for privatizing sanitation services three years ago, was never promoted as promised during the initial negotiations with the Council to approve the contract. Smith said that responsibility for the program was passed around to various city departments and that there was no follow-up.

"What we'll do is lower the bar here. Whatever rate you had last year for 3,200 tons, we would give you $11.50 a ton back rather than $2.50. But we think the real solution to this problem is: Don't settle for 10 percent participation," Smith said.

"We'll provide some advertising money, we'll provide my marketing director for recycling to go to block clubs, schools -- any kind of meetings you want to coordinate. If you raise your rate to 15 percent, you're talking about another 1,600 tons. At that point, you'd be at 4,800 tons."

Smith added that "you can save $148,000 just on your tipping fee, compared to $95,000 you're saving now, and at 4,800 tons, you're getting a $16-per-ton credit, so you'd be getting another $76,000 worth of credits. And that would exceed the $200,000 you were originally anticipating saving by going biweekly."

Smith and Hickman said a 15 percent participation rate is "quite doable if it's a coordinated effort." North Tonawanda's rate is 25 percent, Hickman said.

"I know exactly where your problems are," Smith said. "Unfortunately, recycling's like a lot of things: The more affluent neighborhoods recycle more. It's just a fact.

"There's a lot of things you can do. We can provide the personnel to do it." Hickman said the city will have to decide how strongly it wants to enforce after the education program is completed.

In addition to targeting block clubs and schools for outreach programs, city officials also focused on business associations, senior citizen centers and apartment buildings, the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, nutrition centers, the Niagara Beautification Commission and garden clubs.

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