NIAGARA FALLS - City lawmakers on Monday night, for the second meeting in a row, faced an onslaught of questions and concerns from the public about the Dyster administration’s new garbage and recycling curbside pickup program.
From doubts about enforcement to the exclusion of businesses to concerns about landlord and tenant responsibilities, the answers to a number of issues remained out of reach for members of the public.
“We should have the right to say no to this ludicrous, asinine, brainless idea,” resident Jo Forgione LePage told the City Council.
Under the current outline of the program, the city will deliver 96-gallon wheeled carts for recyclable materials and 64-gallon wheeled carts for garbage. Recycling will be picked up every other week, as opposed to weekly, and garbage will remain picked up on a weekly basis.
The city’s recycling rate - at only 4 percent - is the worst in Western New York, according to an analysis by Investigative Post. Improving that rate has been stated by the Dyster administration as one of the main reasons behind the program changes.
One of the other main changes to the city’s program means many businesses will no longer receive free pickup, but will rather have to find other means, like a Dumpster, to handle their garbage. Business owners received letters from the city earlier this month telling them to find private waste pickup services.
Doug Brown, who runs souvenir shops on Old Falls Street and Prospect Street, asked why business owners are being treated differently from residents, who will pay nothing more for the service while businesses will face additional costs.
“If it’s deemed appropriate that we pay for the trash, why aren’t all the households being asked to pay for it?” Brown asked. He suggested the city establish drop-off sites where people can bring recyclable materials.
Because the totes will remain city property after they’ve been delivered to residents, North Avenue resident Candace Corsaro questioned the proposed process that should a tote be stolen, the police should be called.
“From what we understand, when the totes come up missing, we’re supposed to call police department and have them come out and give us a report. Doesn’t the Niagara Falls Police Department have enough to do than patrol our garbage?” said Corsaro, who organized a community meeting on the issue last week.
McKoon Avenue resident Edward Battaglia listed a number of questions before lawmakers, and urged city officials to offer incentives if they want people to recycle more.
City Administrator Donna D. Owens, who has been in charge of making the changes to the program, has also taken the brunt of the criticism for its rollout.
Owens, who for 20 years dealt with garbage issues working for city governments in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, said she has spoken personally with more than 300 business owners and landlords who have questions and concerns.
She said the city will continue to tweak the program as it goes along.
“We’re ironing out these kinks,” she said Monday.
Representatives from the city and Modern Disposal will host another public information session about the waste program changes tonight at LaSalle Library, 8728 Buffalo Ave., from 5 to 8.