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City plans composting program

As the autumn leaves begin to fall, Buffalo is poised to launch one of its most comprehensive composting efforts in decades.

The Common Council unanimously approved a contract Tuesday that aims to save as much as 60 percent in landfill costs. Assuming the control board approves the pact, Buffalo will pay Lardon Construction $30 a ton to pick up leaves and other yard waste at a city-owned site, then haul it to Blasdell where it will be turned into mulch.

Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak envisions having drop-off sites where residents can bring bagged leaves. The other option is to leave bags at the curb on garbage day, a practice that is already commonly used by property owners.

"All we ask is that people not put the leaves in the streets," said Stepniak. A lot of our streets are very narrow and have on-street parking."

Buffalo has tinkered with a number of composting pilot projects over the years, said Stepniak. But Mayor Byron W. Brown's administration has been eager to pursue a large-scale composting program in light of the economic and environmental benefits.

Some Council members who have been critical of Buffalo's anemic recycling rate also have touted the benefits of composting. The one concern some lawmakers had involved possible odors if a large-scale operation was created in a city neighborhood. For example, one bidder proposed to compost waste on land near the city-owned Seneca Street site where leaves will be stored for up to a week.

Council Majority Leader Richard A. Fontana said he and other local officials recently toured a composting operation in the Town of Amherst. He said it was clear such an operation would be unsuitable for a neighborhood that is bordered by residences.

Stepniak said the goal is to compost 1,500 to 2,000 tons of yard waste in the first season.

In other action Tuesday, the Council unanimously called on the city's cable television franchise to give Buffalo a fifth public access channel. Council President David A. Franczyk said the city is running out of prime time hours in which to air public programming that includes City Hall meetings, news conferences and telecasts of community events.

Franczyk said the agreement with Time Warner allows the city to receive a fifth channel if it can show that the current channels are carrying shows most of the time. He said Time Warner has refused to relinquish a fifth channel even though the city has made its case.

But Time Warner spokeswoman Robin Wolfgang said city officials have not clearly documented the need for another channel.


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