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Lancaster supervisor in no hurry for totes Giza questions the cost of implementing program

Officials in Buffalo's first-ring suburban communities may be eager to phase in garbage tote programs to help combat growing rodent problems in their towns, but Lancaster Supervisor Robert H. Giza says there is no urgency to move to totes in his community.

"We talked about it but haven't decided to move on it," Giza said Thursday. "Besides, it wouldn't be cheap."

Kenmore, the Town of Tonawanda and Amherst are looking to Buffalo as a model to try to solve rodent problems by requiring garbage be left in totes at the curbside. Erie County has even offered to be the lead agency to help municipalities get lower prices for the plastic containers with attached lids.

"You'd have to multiply the number of units [in the town] by the number of totes you'd need," said Giza. "At $55 a tote for roughly 17,000 parcels, that would come to almost $1 million. Who would pay for it? Would we raise taxes or charge people individually for them?"

Also, Giza said, the town is midway through a 10-year contract with Waste Management that requires the garbage hauling company to take whatever amount of garbage residents leave at the curbside.

"I don't know what people would do if they generate more garbage than a tote would hold," Giza said. "Do we buy two [totes per household]? Who pays for them? Do we buy the first one with tax dollars and each person who needs one pays for the second? What if a person generates more [garbage] than two totes would fill?"

Giza said replacing lost or damaged totes also might be expensive. Each week, he said, the town replaces 20 to 30 lost or damaged recycling bins.

"Right now, Lancaster doesn't have a serious rat problem like [neighboring] Cheektowaga," Giza said.

Only 23 rat sightings were reported in Lancaster last year, far fewer than in contiguous communities to the north and west, he added.

"But if Cheektowaga goes to totes, the rats might come to Lancaster," said Giza. "If people were super careful with their garbage, we wouldn't need the totes."

He also questioned whether the town or the waste hauling company would be responsible for retrofitting the sanitation trucks to accommodate the totes.

Meanwhile, Cheektowaga is in the process of enacting a covered container law.

In 2004, Kenmore changed its trash regulation, requiring totes for business and apartment owners and covered containers for residents. The village is now preparing to go to a full totes system. The Town of Tonawanda has mandated a townwide program.

Amherst amended its garbage law last year, requiring containers with lids. Council Member Shelly Schratz called it a temporary fix because the town is working out financial plans for a townwide tote program.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com