The Town of Tonawanda on Monday became the first of Buffalo's major suburbs to follow the city's garbage tote program in the name of rodent control.
The 5-2 party-line vote approved the proposed garbage law amendment to implement a townwide tote program. The town is the largest first-ring suburb to institute the change, but others -- including Amherst -- could soon follow suit.
The Democratic majority initiated and supported the changes to the regulation.
Democratic Councilman John A. Bargnesi described the tote program as the "right step to take for the people in the Town of Tonawanda. We should do it once and do it right."
The amendment was adopted after a two-hour public hearing, during which residents seemed divided on the issue. Some speakers denied the existence of a rat problem and urged the Town Board to study the issue more and put the focus on garbage law enforcement of covered containers and education.
Former Republican Councilman Raymond Sinclair said: "I don't think the totes [are] going to solve the problem. Stop the food source, stop the problem."
"I ask you to seriously consider eliminating the proposed garbage law amendment that calls for a townwide tote program," said resident Michael J. Billoni. "Please, be considerate of us taxpayers by doing a complete and thorough due diligence before spending millions of our dollars on potentially unneeded totes for residents."
But other residents countered with personal stories of their rodent plight. Over the past three years, Linda Biederon said, she has killed 30 to 40 rats on her property. "This problem is serious; it's out of hand."
The board's two Republicans opposed the changes but supported different alternatives. Councilman John E. Donnelly supported the amendment as it was originally proposed in December to require covered containers for residences and totes for owners of businesses and multiple dwelling housing units. Supervisor Ronald H. Moline was in favor of a townwide covered container measure. He had recommended that the amendments be revised to require all property to have covered containers, with businesses and apartment buildings being monitored for possible tote use. Moline said it would offer the least inconvenience and be least expensive to residents.
The Democrats had the support of Peter J. Tripi of the Erie County Health Department, who said he highly recommended totes to combat rodent infestation.
"Totes are the best and immediate way to knock the problem down; we've seen it in the City of Buffalo," he said.
To residents who said there was no problem with rodent infestation, he said: "You would be surprised how many calls are coming out of the Town of Tonawanda."