Revenues spiked upward this year at Niagara County's landfill that handles construction and demolition debris.
Richard P. Pope, director of the Niagara County Refuse Disposal District, wondered last week if that is a harbinger of an economic recovery.
"This is an indicator to me," Pope said.
Maybe not, said Jerry Roberts, owner of Roberts Roofing and Siding, a Lockport home improvement company.
He said his business has been heavy this year, but he attributed much of it to the demand to repair damage caused in an April windstorm.
Pope, whose landfill on the Lockport Bypass charges $63.60 per ton to dispose of construction and demolition debris, said his business took in $517,000 during the first 11 months of the year.
That was a significant jump from the 2010 full-year total of $437,000.
Pope said the landfill received more than 8,000 tons of debris this year. "Normally we have 5,000 to 7,000 tons," he said.
The surge started in June, when the landfill's receipts jumped above $73,000, the biggest month in at least four years. Subsequent months weren't as strong, but the figures remained well above the corresponding months in the recession years of 2009 and 2010.
"There appears to be a definite trend, and as a result of recent increases in revenue, the Niagara County Refuse District and its elected leadership [of county legislators] felt a reduction in appropriations and taxes would be appropriate," Pope said.
The Refuse District tax rate was cut from 10.45 cents to 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for 2012. The tax is assessed on county tax bills everywhere except the towns of Cambria, Newfane, Niagara and Wilson. Those towns never joined the district.
"We're encouraged by the number of smaller business contractors coming in," Pope said.
Roberts said 2011 has been a big year for his company. "I know our business is up, and it's mainly due to the April windstorm we had," he said.
The mild fall and early winter have enabled him to keep his 30 employees working.
"The weather's been fantastic for us. Every day's a bonus," Roberts said.
But the nature of the work belies the notion of prosperity.
"Roofing has been the big one this year. Patio rooms have been down. That's a luxury, not a necessity. Windows have been down," Roberts said. "Siding has been big this year, for some reason."
As for landfilling debris, Roberts said, "Most of our business has been done with Dumpster companies. One guy we use has a trailer, but they don't use that [county] landfill."
He said his landfill has four years of space left at the current pace of disposal, but he's looking at ways to keep going.
One is a proposal to excavate waste and sell it to Covanta Energy, whose incinerator in Niagara Falls burns many Erie County communities' trash.
"Not a whole lot was going on with that. We have our own wood program," Covanta business manager Kevin O'Neil said.