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City of Lockport considers whether to seek new bids on garbage, recycling contract

LOCKPORT – The Common Council is considering whether to seek new bids on a garbage and recycling contract.

The city’s five-year deal with Modern Disposal expires Sept. 30, and the city has until July 1 to tell the Lewiston company whether it will renew the contract for another five years.

“It’s not about Modern. It’s just good business to me,” Alderman R. Joseph O’Shaughnessy, D-at large, said in supporting a rebid during Wednesday’s meeting.

Dawn M. Timm, Niagara County environmental science coordinator, who helped set up the city’s current program in 2011, recommended that the city try to negotiate changes with Modern before seeking bids. She said recent disposal bids in Erie and Niagara counties have come in at $42 to $44 per ton, while Lockport is paying about $34 a ton.

“It sounds like we could be costing our residents more if we went out to bid,” Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said.

City Clerk Richelle J. Pasceri said that if the city seeks bids, it would void the Modern contract.

Council President David R. Wohleben, R-4th Ward, who invited Timm to the meeting, demanded that O’Shaughnessy’s proposal be tabled. “I am not ready to decide on a $1.1 million contract after 20 minutes of discussion,” he said.

“I’d like a little more time to digest what we’re trying to do,” agreed Alderman Joseph P. Oates, R-Lockport. O’Shaughnessy yielded, and the Council will return to the issue next week.

Besides rebidding the contract, O’Shaughnessy’s resolution calls for auditing the refuse operation, creating a refuse advisory board for which he would be chairman, and taking the management of the program away from Pasceri and giving it to the deputy city treasurer, a position that is currently vacant.

O’Shaughnessy also wants the new bid to include the option for the company rather than the city to bill residents for refuse service, which is now billed twice a year. O’Shaughnessy said 21 percent of users don’t pay on time.

Unpaid bills are now added to the following year’s property tax bills. A private company wouldn’t be able to do that, Wohleben said.

“Ultimately, the city does recoup that money,” McCaffrey said. “If the home goes into foreclosure, it’ll take awhile.”

Timm said that based on the 2011 bids from three haulers, they would have added 5 to 10 percent to the fee if they had to create a billing system.

Timm said, “They’re not set up for that. They don’t have the infrastructure. They collect garbage.”

He also said it would be illegal to take away work from unionized city employees without negotiating it with the Civil Service Employees Association.

On another topic, the Council voted to borrow $6.5 million to replace the last two miles of the city’s 13-mile raw water supply line from the Niagara River. The 30-inch steel pipe, which is 101 years old, would be replaced by a prestressed concrete pipe to be laid parallel to the old one, according to Michael T. Marino, of Nussbaumer & Clarke, an engineering firm working with the city.

Rolando Moreno, who was promoted to the vacant post of city engineer Monday, said the city will apply by April 15 for a state Environmental Facilities Corp. grant of up to $2 million. Marino said other grants or interest-free loans might be available in Albany to pay back the borrowing.

“It’s a competitive program. There’s no guarantee you’ll get the grant or finance,” Marino warned.