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Falls Council OKs hiring of two temporary workers to enforce tote law

NIAGARA FALLS – City lawmakers Monday approved funding to hire two temporary workers for three months to enforce the garbage and recycling law that went into effect at the beginning of the year.

After withholding approval for Mayor Paul A. Dyster’s proposal for six months’ worth of funding since early January, the City Council voted unanimously to allocate $21,235 for three months of work. In addition to wages, funds were also included for various supplies.

Funding for the new employees, who will be part of the city’s Sanitation Waste Education Enforcement Team, or SWEET, or will come from the city’s share of casino revenue.

Dyster has called the hiring necessary in order to increase compliance at properties where rules aren’t being followed.

In the first changes to the garbage program in decades, the city began requiring the use of 64-gallon totes for garbage and 96-gallon totes for recyclable materials for curbside pickup. Residents and some businesses began using them last summer, though the city ordinance requiring their use and outlining the rules of the program did not go into effect until Jan. 1.

When asked about the turnaround time to get the two new employees in place and out on the street doing their jobs, Dyster said that there will be some time needed for training to get them familiar with the requirements of the law. But he also said that there may be some tasks that require less training and could start sooner.

In addition to education and enforcement duties, other items still to be done include handling requests for lid changes, in which after a city review, the lids are swapped between a household’s recycling and garbage totes.

If approved, the change would allow a blue lid to be put on a 96-gallon green tote and used for garbage and the 64-gallon blue tote with a green lid to be used for recycling.

People with physical disabilities who need help getting the totes to the curb need to be signed up for the porter program, which provides assistance. Also, carts must be picked up from vacant properties or delivered to ones recently occupied, the mayor said.

Dyster has said the city generally won’t begin by just issuing fines to those who are violating the law, but will start with more of an educational approach.

Council Chairman Andrew P. Touma said he believes that a lot of residents are following the garbage and recycling requirements and that the city should take action against those who fail to follow the law.

“It’s time to go after these folks and fine them,” Touma said.

Dyster also told lawmakers that the city is investigating cases of serious alleged violations but declined to provide further detail.

In another matter, the Council voted unanimously to award a $150,000 grant of casino funds to the Aquarium of Niagara for the planned $3.3 million expansion of its penguin exhibit.