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Lockport Council wants garbage-disposal bids in case it can’t agree on extension with Modern

LOCKPORT – The Common Council voted Wednesday to seek new bids for garbage disposal in case it can’t reach an agreement with Modern Disposal on a contract renewal by June 1.

The measure, sponsored by Alderman R. Joseph O’Shaughnessy, D-at large, was amended to include that condition, which had not been there before Wednesday. Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano suggested it.

“It’s a Plan B. If we can’t negotiate with Modern, we have an RFP (request for proposals) ready to go.”

A letter from Modern to Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey on Wednesday said the prices that she and Modern officials agreed upon last week are good until May 19. Joseph M. Hickman, Modern’s manager of sales and municipal accounts, appeared before the Council to say that other municipalities that have bid garbage contracts in the last six months have seen substantial increases.

In the Village of Depew, which Hickman said disposes of a slightly larger amount of trash than Lockport, Modern recently won a contract with a bid of $42 per ton, an increase from $36.50.

Lockport is currently paying $32.23 per ton, and Hickman told the Council that an open bid that showed an increase similar to Depew’s would result in a $78,000-a-year cost increase for Lockport.

The proposed new prices have not been publicly disclosed, but The Buffalo News learned that the informal McCaffrey-Modern agreement for a five-year extension with Modern would increase the disposal fee by 50 cents per ton per year, pushing the price to $34.73 by 2021. In exchange, Modern would no longer agree to pay the city a minimum of $2.50 per ton for recyclable materials, which has brought $43,000 in revenue back to the city since 2011. But Modern would agree not to charge the city for processing of recyclables. Hickman told the aldermen Wednesday that the company would be able to charge the city $4,000 a month for that under its current cost structure.

Modern’s current five-year contract expires at the end of September, and both sides would have to give notice of opting out of a renewal by July 1. The city is charging all property owners a semiannual user fee, depending on the size of garbage tote the user chose, and that system is expected to continue.

Hickman said that Modern recently refused to renew a $4.4 million-a-year contract with the Town of Amherst because the price is too low, and has warned Wheatfield that it may decline a renewal because of the recycling rebate it currently has to pay.

After the Council’s 4-0 vote to seek bids June 1, Hickman said Modern would not cut off talks if the McCaffrey-Modern deal isn’t approved by May 19. That’s the day after the Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting. McCaffrey was absent from the meeting for family reasons, and Council President David R. Wohleben, as acting mayor, couldn’t vote. Alderman Richard E. Abbott, D-5th Ward, was absent, too.

Last year’s Democratic mayoral candidate, Roger L. Sherrie, and former Alderman Scott A. Cercone, a Republican, both urged the Council to go to bid. Cercone said that if the city had not privatized garbage, “your taxes would not have gone up as much as the fee on top of your tax increase.”

Longtime city resident Doralyn B. Marshall called for signing the extension with Modern. “You’ve got a bird in the hand. You’d better keep it,” Marshall urged.