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Tote shipment expected to end shortage in city

Buffalo's chronic shortage of garbage totes is expected to end this summer as crews deliver thousands of new containers, the acting public works chief said Tuesday.

The statement came on the same day Common Council members passed a bill demanding to know how Mayor Byron W. Brown's administration plans to deal with complaints from more than 1,000 property owners.

Some have waited two months for tote replacements, a delay that Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto called unacceptable. If people don't pay their garbage user fees on time, they face penalties and even liens against homes, LoCurto said.

"Yet they are left without totes for months at a time with no recourse," he lamented.

Acting Public Works Commissioner Daniel E. Kreuz said he is confident the problem will be resolved soon. The new city budget that takes effect Sunday earmarks $567,649 for the tote program, including enough money to buy 10,000 totes. About 500 containers already arrived last week, Kreuz said, with another 500 expected in the coming days. In late July, 2,000 totes are due to arrive.

"People are going to have to be patient as we assemble these things and distribute them," Kreuz said.

South Council Member Michael P. Kearns wants to meet with sanitation crews to help better understand why Buffalo has become so tote-challenged. As the program moves into its seventh year, a growing number of containers are starting to break. Kearns think one problem is that some people use the larger totes as "personal dumpsters," throwing debris in them that causes damage when they are emptied by automatic lifters.

The Council sent to committee a plan that would give property owners more flexibility on where they store containers. The city currently requires people to keep totes in rear yards so that they are out of sight except on garbage day.

Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana said the rule creates a hardship for some senior citizens and other residents. He said he is confident the Council will approve a revision that would let people keep the totes in side yards, as long as they're at least 10 feet from the front of the house.

"The goal is to keep the [totes] off front lawns but still allow them to be stored in a convenient place," Fontana said.

The Council also took an early step toward reducing the speed limits on Delaware Avenue's S-curves and on a section of Elmwood Avenue between Hertel and Hinman avenues.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. wants to impose a 30 mph speed limit on both stretches. He was surprised to learn that the current speed limit on Delaware between Amherst Street and West Delavan Avenue is 35 mph. Motorists can legally travel up to 40 mph on Elmwood between Hertel and Hinman, he said.

City attorneys must review the proposed lower speed limits to make sure they comply with state laws, said Peter J. Savage III, the Council's legal adviser.

The Council also voted, 8-1, to permanently extend a year-old law that requires more construction contractors who do work for the city to have apprentice programs.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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