City officials are scrambling to put together a plan to deal with garbage on the streets before the upcoming tourist season, renewing the debate over how much responsibility should fall on local businesses.
"By Saturday afternoons, the garbage cans are overflowing," said Debora Krieger, who last year operated a food stand on the West Mall across from Niagara Falls State Park. "They're disgusting, and they need to be emptied two to three times a day on the weekend."
Mayor Vince V. Anello recently told the City Council he would like the city's business associations to hire a coordinator to focus on garbage and suggested some city money could be allocated, although he has named no source.
Krieger, who owns Bada Bean Cafe and Coffeehouse, says the city bears the onus to make sure garbage cans on sidewalks get emptied.
"I think it's a city issue. It's the Department of Public Works," she said. "It seems to me it would be more expensive" for the associations to hire a coordinator."
City Administrator Bill Bradberry, a member of the city's Tourism Advisory Board, says he is aware of complaints about a lack of city workers to pick up garbage in business areas.
By Memorial Day Weekend, Bradberry said, he wants to have more seasonal workers on the city's Clean Team focusing on commercial streets, especially around the West Mall and the areas between the state park and downtown.
Anello said seasonal workers have been used in previous years. Both city officials describe the issue as citywide and say it should involve a public-private effort.
"If we got four business associations to throw in a couple thousand dollars to hire a coordinator, [that person could] monitor the appearance of business areas and make sure the work gets done," Bradberry said. "I'd also like to see Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or other volunteer groups adopt a street or alley. We can't leave total responsibility up to city maintenance crews."
Anello recently suggested calling a meeting of all business associations to discuss the issue, according to Gay Molnar, director of development at the Aquarium of Niagara. No move has been made to do so, although many local business leaders said they would be happy to work together.
"We as a business association don't have the money to pay to clean up Main Street, but we would be willing to work with whomever," said Claudia Miller, president of the Main Street Business and Professional Association.
Mary Jo Zacher, executive director of the Pine Avenue Business Association, said she sees both sides of the debate and would be willing to work with other business groups.
"Every business should be accountable for [its] own area," she said. "It shouldn't be just the city."
David Fleck, longtime owner of the downtown Howard Johnson Hotel, said he cleans up around his business but he couldn't afford a special assessment to hire someone to take care of all the sidewalks.
"We have our own businesses, and we try to keep those clean," he said. "It really is a city function. You pay taxes. What are they going for?"