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RESIDENTS QUESTION PROPOSAL TO PRIVATIZE RECYCLING

Residents peppered the Cheektowaga Town Board with questions Monday night on how privatizing recycling would save money in next year's budget.

The Council Chamber was packed during the public hearing on the proposed $61.38 million budget, which so far carries a tax increase of 12.3 percent. While Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak said the increase would be less than 12 percent after the Town Board modifies the budget, residents wanted more information on recycling.

The supervisor has said he would like to save money by privatizing recycling by next year. The 17 employees in the recycling department would be transferred to other jobs, with some going to higher-paid jobs, he said.

"It doesn't show up in the budget," said Frank Max, a sanitation foreman. "To transfer the guys in recycling, it's going to cost $178,000."

"I do have a problem giving pay increases to departments working two hours a day and getting eight hours pay," said Kathleen Gibbons, to the applause of residents.

Town and union officials said the last contract provided for recycling crews to stay a minimum of six hours.

Max also claimed residents would pay the equivalent of a 3 percent to 6 percent tax increase for a private company to haul their recyclables away, but town officials said they are still looking into the costs.

"We haven't gotten to the point where we know whether we can do it," Gabryszak said.

"It would have to be negotiated. It would have to be bid. You will pick up a competitive user fee," Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr. said.

Highway Superintendent Christopher J. Kowal said if the town does not privatize recycling, it will have to replace 10 recycling trucks soon, at about $100,000 apiece. They were purchased at the same time through a grant, and they are starting to break down.

"You can't commit to a service without the equipment to do the job. It's ludicrous," Kowal said.

"If you don't get the equipment, if you don't get the support, of course the department's going to look bad, because it's being made to look bad," said Kevin Glascott, president of the Town of Cheektowaga Employees Association.

Councilman James J. Jankowiak said the board owes it to the taxpayers to look at both sides of the issue to determine whether municipal or private service is more cost-effective.

"Why didn't we have any talks in the spring or summer," Glascott said. "You haven't given either side the time to get the facts together."

Glascott said he talked briefly with the supervisor last week over the issue and is willing to sit down and talk more in depth with town officials.

But he added, "We are not agreeing at this time to reopen the contract."

Joseph Przemielewski, president of the William Street Taxpayers Association, chided the board on the amount of overtime allotted in the budget, particularly in the police, recycling and sewer departments.

"This is poor management when you've got to pay overtime like this," he said.

Town officials said overtime for recycling employees is for working on holidays, and they noted that sewer department employees get called out on various emergencies.

Brian M. Krause, director of administration and finance, said personnel costs and fringe benefits make up 76 percent of the budget.

The loss in revenues combined with the increased expenses account for the proposed tax increase, he said.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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