Clarence homeowners Tuesday rejected plans to have the town contract for garbage collection services.
The final vote on the referendum was 2,112 against and 1,783 in favor of the measure.
That means residents will continue to contract privately with one of three waste haulers allowed to pick up refuse and recyclables in the town, instead of having town officials negotiate one price for all single-, two- and three-family residences in Clarence.
Despite the measure's defeat, Supervisor Kathleen E. Hallock insisted Tuesday that it was the "right thing" for the Town Board to have put the proposal to a public vote.
"We're letting the people decide," Hallock said in the late afternoon, as a steady stream of voters queued up only a few feet from her office in Town Hall to cast their ballots.
"I'm really happy with the turnout," said Hallock. "We wish people would turn out at all elections this well. Few people go to the school budget hearings, where the fiscal implications are so much bigger."
A standing-room-only crowd that showed up March 20 for an informational hearing on plans to go to a single, townwide refuse district was decidedly sullen about the prospect.
Joseph W. Adams, of Shimerville Road, said he voted against the plan for a single refuse district, even though he believed the $160 annual charge for the service that was negotiated by town officials was "a good price." What he objected to was what he described as a $2.56 hidden tax included in that bill.
"They basically misrepresented this. They [told] us it was only going to be assessed to [owners of] vacant properties. It's not. It's going to be assessed to the whole town," Adams said.
But Hallock said town officials have always been open and aboveboard about that fee, which, she said, is not a tax.
If the referendum had been approved by voters,the money collected would likely have gone to cover costs associated with picking up items that neither NEI Waste Services nor Erie County would have picked up, such as hazardous materials or discarded electronic goods.
"That $2.56 [charge] we considered a benefit to the whole town because if somebody continued to dump garbage where they shouldn't, then the town forces would have to pick it up," she added.
Donna M. Allan, of Clarence Center, was among those who supported going to a townwide refuse district.
"It's going to be cheaper for everyone, and it's going to save our streets from the [large volume] of trucks that come down to pick up the trash. Right now on our little street, there are three different garbage companies that pick up garbage on different days," Allan said.
The cost for garbage and recycling collection would have been included on homeowners' tax bills.