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June 1, 2013 - 10:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee ARC, garbage collection, bativia.

Genesee ARC crews were out and about this morning picking up garbage. It's the last day of a 28-year run for ARC as the contracted trash collector for the City of Batavia. From now on, residents are required to arrange for their own garbage collection with a private hauler. ARC is going into competition with five other companies that will provide trash service.

April 29, 2013 - 12:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, garbage collection.

Mark Smith sees a business opportunity in Batavia: To provide local residents with a garbage service that includes totes.

Smith is owner of Nu Way, an Arcade-based company that already has residential and commercial clients in Genesee County.

When Smith learned none of the companies that will start offering trash service in the City of Batavia will offer totes, Smith thought, "I can do that."

Starting June 1, when the Genesee ARC contract expires, the local trash market becomes open to competition.

The tote is optional. Nu Way will also offer bag pick-up.

The price for bag service is $22 month for five 30-gallon bags a week. The tote price is the $22 basic fee plus $4.50 a month. The service includes one bulk item per week.

Totes are 90 gallons, but a smaller tote can be requested.

Totes are also available for recyclables.

To contact Nu Way, call (585) 492-5880.

April 20, 2013 - 8:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

Jeff and Dave Pero see a business opportunity in Batavia -- picking up garbage.

The brothers took over management of rental properties owned by their grandfather after he died last year and when they started getting pricing for garbage collection under the new open-market system in Batavia, they thought it would expensive to hire a company to pick up trash at all of those properties.

They decided they would just take care of garbage collection at their own properties themselves, but that thought was quickly followed by another, "why don't we just do it for the whole city?"

Jeff and Dave won't be the first Peros to offer garbage collection in Batavia. Their great-grandfather had a trash company at one time.

They're buying a dump truck and will operate as Trash Away, picking up residential garbage. Customers who put out fewer than six 30-gallon bags per week or three standard trash cans per week will pay $18 bucks a month.

People who live alone and generate no more than one bag of trash per week will get a special price of $10 a month.

Trash Away will also pick up an unlimited amount of recycling.

When customers need bulk item pick-up or yard waste pick-up, Trash Away will offer the service by appointment and the price will be negotiated based on the size of the job.

The company will also offer attic, garage and basement clean-up for a fee.

For information call (585) 250-4065 or e-mail them at [email protected]

April 18, 2013 - 11:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

Meet Dave. Dave is an employee of Waste Management, tasked with walking every residential street in Batavia to hang door hangers promoting the company's garbage collection service.

Starting June 1, city residents will be responsible for contracting with their own refuse and recycling company.

Besides Genesee ARC, local companies such as Gardner Disposal and PSI (and a third one that will announce its new business soon), are competing for customers.

Asked if WM will offer totes, Dave said only if enough customers sign up for WM's service.

Dave's worked nearly the entire city since Saturday by himself, with just some help on Saturday and Monday. He had only two more blocks to visit when we spoke.

April 4, 2013 - 1:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, garbage collection.

If you're a city resident who thought you might get totes for your garbage and recycling starting June 1, you will be very disappointed to learn that none of the haulers planning trash service for Batavia will offer totes.

Not even Waste Management, one of the largest refuse collection companies in the nation, will offer totes in Batavia.

Genesee ARC, who had the contract with the city for garbage collection for 28 years, will offer the same bag and can service the agency has always offered.

Jeff Gardner, starting up Gardner Disposal, will pick up bags and cans, and PSI, based in Alabama, will pick up bags and cans.

Or you can drop off your own bags at Scofield's transfer station in Stafford or the Town of Batavia's transfer station.

But a tote that you can wheel to the curb? Forget about it.

Waste Management will charge $24 a month for up to a dozen 30-gallon bags. The quarterly rate, with fees and fuel charges, will come to $92 to $95.

Genesee ARC will charge $21.95 a month for curbside pick up of cans and bags, or you can buy 10 bags at a time for $30, or ARC will offer a drop-off service at the West Main site is 10 cents per pound.

The new kid on the block, Gardner Disposal, will be locally owned and operated and at least to start. The new owner, Jeff Gardner, will also be the garbage man picking up the trash.

He plans to charge $20 a month for up to seven 13-gallon bags or up to five 30-gallon bags. (Gardner offers more information on his Web site.)

PSI is $25.50 per month for six bags a week.

All services will offer free recycling pick up, but again, no totes.

As for bulk items, prices will vary and picks must be scheduled with your contracted hauler.

Here's a list of companies and phone numbers offering service to Batavia residents

Gardner Disposal: (585) 343-4626
Genesee ARC: (585) 343-1123 or 585-343-4203
PSI Disposal, Inc.: (585) 599-3255
Waste Management, Inc.: (800) 333-6590

Transfer stations to drop off refuse, recycling and bulk items:

Scofield Transfer and Recycling: (585) 343-7373
Town of Batavia Transfer Station: (585) 343-1729

April 3, 2013 - 6:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

Genesee ARC told WBTA today what the agency plans to charge local residents for garbage pick up starting June 1, when the city will stop providing taxpayer-subsidized garbage collection.

Traditional curbside service is $21.95/mo, self-directed bag service is 10 bags for $30 and drop-off service at the West Main site is 10 cents per pound.

No word yet on how to sign up for the service.

WBTA reports that an ARC representative said the price levels will help the agency remain solvent and continue its programs and mission.

For 28 years, Genesee ARC had an exclusive contract with the City of Batavia for curbside trash and recycling collection, but all of that changed when the city decided to take measures to get the cost of trash collection out of property tax bills.

After a public protest over a proposed automated system using totes with a contract for garbage collection going to an Arizona-based company, the council voted to get the city out of the trash business completely.

Starting June 1, property owners will be responsible for contracting with a priviate hauler or taking their garbage to a transfer station. Other contractors planning to service the city are Gardner Disposal, PSI Disposal and Waste Management, as well as transfer stations Scofield Transfer and Recycling and Town of Batavia.

Here's a list of contractors and phone numbers provided by the city in a letter to residents:

Gardner Disposal: (585) 343-4626
Genesee ARC: (585) 343-1123 or 585-343-4203
PSI Disposal, Inc.: (585) 599-3255
Waste Management, Inc.: (800) 333-6590

Transfer stations to drop off refuse, recycling and bulk items:

Scofield Transfer and Recycling: (585) 343-7373
Town of Batavia Transfer Station: (585) 343-1729

March 29, 2013 - 3:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

Letter from the city to residents:

As of June 1, 2013, City of Batavia residents will be responsible for their own curbside pickup of refuse, recycling and bulk items. Each property owner will either select a vendor of their choice or have to transport their refuse and recycling to a transfer station.

The City has contacted several refuse haulers in the area who are interested in collecting refuse, recycling and bulk items on a private basis. The City has not negotiated a price for this service and is not recommending a particular hauler.

Gardner Disposal: (585) 343-4626
Genesee ARC: (585) 343-1123 or 585-343-4203
PSI Disposal, Inc.: (585) 599-3255
Waste Management, Inc.: (800) 333-6590

Transfer stations to drop off refuse, recycling and bulk items:

Scofield Transfer and Recycling: (585) 343-7373
Town of Batavia Transfer Station: (585) 343-1729

March 26, 2013 - 10:18am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.
Kris Doeringer
Tim Buckley

Calling it the best solution possible, the Batavia City Council voted Monday night to remove garbage collection from the tax roles, remove city responsibility for garbage collection from the municipal code, and tell residents they're now on their own for getting rid of their trash.

Letters from the city to all property owners will go out within a week or so outlining the new rules for city residents and providing them with a list of vendors for trash collection.

Starting June 1, residents will contract with their own hauler  -- or haul it themselves -- and pay their own bills.

"This will make it fair for everyone," said Councilman Kris Doeringer. "It was not fair that some people were paying more than others based on the assessment rather than on the amount of trash they produced. It was just as unfair that businesses had to pay for a service that they were not even using and others did not pay anything at all."

The trash issue has been broiling in Batavia since late last year when city staff revealed a plan to change the municipal code to require an automated tote-based system for garbage collection and open up the refuse and recycling contract to competitive bidding.

For 28 years, Genesee ARC had provided garbage collection in the city, but after ARC was the highest bidder on the new proposed contract, ARC's supporters flooded council chambers through multiple meetings demanding the proposed changes be rejected.

And they were, but council members were still unwilling to give up the double-digit decrease in the tax rate from dropping garbage collection as a city service.

Many ARC supports said, "if it's not broken, don't fix it," but council members, such as Doeringer, said the old system was broken and it needed to be fixed.

Council President Tim Buckley also said the old system was unfair.

"The process now is fair," Buckley said. "I spoke to a widow who lives on the Northeast side of town. She's called me a couple of times. Her assessment is up there and she puts out one bag of garbage every week. She said, 'I go by every week and I see houses with five or 10 bags out.' She said, 'why do I have to pay for that?' It's not fair for her. OK, now it's fair for her."

Doeringer, as did Councilman Pierluigi Cipollone, made it clear they thought the proposed garbage collection plan brought forth by City Manager Jason Molino was pretty good.

"The residents would have received a needed service at a reasonable cost," Cipollone said. "The city would have realized a $1.2 million savings over five years. The city could have used those funds for providing other needed services."

Cipollone cast the lone dissenting vote to change the system to an open market.

While Doeringer believes getting the city out of the garbage business both accomplishes the council's goal to reduce city expenses and is responsive to his constituents' wishes, he regrets the new system won't do much to encourage recycling.

"I was shocked to realize people didn't want a better recycling system," Doeringer said. "They didn't want a system that's more efficient and would help the environment. They didn't want a system that helps clean up the streets from the many animals getting into the garbage, and most surprising, they didn't want a system that would cost less, now and in the future."

Doeringer, Buckley, Patti Pacino, John Canale and Jim Russell all left the door open for revisiting the trash issue for the 2014-15 budget.

"I will personally monitor the system," Canale said. "I will look at what the effect is going to be and if it proves not to be effective in my opinion, then I will personally spearhead an effort to propose a new system that is fair and effective for everyone."

March 22, 2013 - 2:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

The Batavia City Council is scheduled to vote on a revised solid waste law that will "get the city out of the trash business" starting June 1, and if that happens, there are private haulers ready to try and woo new customers in the city.

Genesee ARC, of course, has said the agency will continue to offer trash collection service in Batavia, and also plans to expand into other parts of the county.

In a survey of other regional trash haulers, two companies said they plan to compete for customers, a third is considering it, a fourth has no comment and two others couldn't be reached for comment.

Ready to jump into the market are Waste Management, one of the largest trash haulers in the nation, and Town of Alabama-based PSI. Both said they plan to offer residential trash service in Batavia.

Erik Grimm, owner of Suburban Disposal, based in Monroe County, hadn't been aware of the proposed change for garbage pick-up in Batavia, but once he learned about it said it was something his company would research and consider.

"There are economies of scale in the collection industry and without proper route density, there isn't a viable service delivery strategy," Grimm said, adding that his company would have to quantify the risk of opening up routes in Batavia and determine if enough business could be generated to begin operations in the city.

The 28 years of experience Genesee ARC has collecting trash in the city and the obvious loyalty many local residents have for ARC would be one of the risk factors in any business calculation, Grimm said.

"Some level of loyalty is something we would have to think about, absolutely," Grimm said.

Lori Caso, WNY spokeswoman for Waste Management issued the following statement when asked about her company's plans:

Yes, it’s our understanding that Batavia is in the process of creating an open market area. Yes, Waste Management is interested in providing service to the area. In fact, we are in the process of creating a special dedicated phone number to give them priority service.

Both Waste Management and Suburban would offer the kind of automated tote pick up the city tried to institute with a proposed trash ordinance that was shot down by the council three weeks ago.

Allied Republic would have won that contract had the new law passed. John McGoran, manager of municipal services for Allied, did not respond to phone messages asking about his company's plans for Batavia.

Depending on Monday's vote, PSI is ready to offer trash service in Batavia, said owner Pete Stanley.

PSI works out of facilities in Alabama and is currently the contracted disposal service for the Village of Le Roy and Town of Alabama and has customers in Erie County and Attica.

Stanley said his company has always been supportive of ARC and delivers to ARC a lot of recycling material that it picks up.

He said he made his plans to offer trash service to residents of Batavia without knowing that ARC planned to continue to offer trash service, but he said it will be up to residents to decide who they want to do business with.

What PSI offers isn't much different from ARC's service -- using trash cans, bags and bins.

"I'm not going to low ball a number to get the work if (ARC is) going to be out there," Stanley said. "I'm going to offer a number that's reasonable because it costs money to run those trucks. I'm going to put my number out there and if people want to come to us that’s fine."

Dave Boon, of Boon and Sons, which partnered with ARC on a bid for the contracted tote system that was rejected by the City Council, did not return phone messages.

Tom Moran, of Youngblood Disposal, based in Rochester, said he had no comment at this time.

The other option for city residents will be for them to deliver their own bags of garbage to transfer stations.

Bruce Scofield, of Scofield Roll-Off Service, has already started advertising his transfer station in Stafford as a possible garbage drop-off point.

He said for a couple bucks a bag, residents who don't generate a lot of trash -- such as older residents without children -- could save a good deal of money by using a transfer station such as his rather than contract with a refuse collection company.

Donna Saskowski, executive director of Genesee ARC, said she can't discuss details of the ARC's new business operation will be until it's approved by the board next week, but she did say ARC was definitely planning to compete for customers in Batavia.

"I have no doubt we'll be competitive," Saskowski said, citing the hometown location and solid reputation as a trustworthy company as probable competitive advantages.

Of course, many people have said they will stick with ARC because they support what ARC does for local residents, even if it costs a little more. Saskowski indicated though that she realizes it will take more than loyalty to build a business.

"We've gotten a lot of very excellent support from many people in the city," Saskowski said. "For most people, if they're not particularly moved by our mission, it's going to come down to price."

UPDATE: Dave Boon called back and said he's been out of town. At this time, Boon and Son has no intention of going into the trash business in Batavia. Boon said he respects what ARC does and it would feel like "backdooring" them to come into Batavia after working on a partnership agreement for the previous bid.  "I'm not looking to come out and step on their toes," he said.

March 12, 2013 - 8:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee ARC, garbage collection.

There was nearly a full house for Monday night's public hearing on proposed changes to the City of Batavia's garbage collection law.

Most speakers -- and most applauders -- argued for some variation of "keep Genesee ARC" as the city's official garbage collection agency.

A couple of speakers said the city should get out of the garbage business.

There was no vote or comment by the council itself Monday. Council members did what they do at public hearings -- sat and listened.

The council is considering a proposed change to the ordinance that would take the cost of garbage collection off the tax rolls, end a 28-year relationship with Genesee ARC, and leave it up to each individual resident to contract with a garbage collection company of his or her choice.

Even the speakers who favor free choice said they would go with Genesee ARC if the price was competitive.

"If ARC chooses to provide trash service I will go with them," said John Roach, who supports the proposal to get the city out of the trash business. "It's the right thing to do and a good many people feel the same way."

But many supporters, such as Carol Grasso, said the city has pulled a fast one on residents by proposing a single-payer, pay-as-you-throw tote system and then when people protested, just saying, "OK, we'll get out of the trash business."

"Council may have misunderstood what we wanted," Grasso said. "Many of us wanted it to stay the way it was."

Grasso suggested that if the council votes for the new ordinance, come November, local voters may just "throw out the garbage."

Mary Ellen Wilber suggested that supporters of ARC may just seek the 400 signatures necessary for a ballot initiative to overturn any decision that gets the city out of the trash business.

"We need to do something together as a city and work together," Wilbur said. "You guys need to understand it wasn’t really broken. I don’t know what happened that this came to this point, but it has to be equitable for everybody."

Thomas Houseknecht said the proposed change unfairly increases the cost for city residents who can least afford the increase and offered to serve on a committee that would help the city come up with a better plan for garbage collection.

Several people made such an offer, and even supporters of choice, such as Jim Rosenbeck, said the city hasn't collected enough public input, studied the issue thoroughly and given it enough time.

"Trying to make the decision in two months is unfair to people," Rosenbeck said.

While he also offered to serve on a trash committee, Rosenbeck clearly favors getting the city out of the trash business.

"I don't believe the sky will fall if the city gets out of the trash collection business," Rosenbeck said. "It works in the town. It works in other communities. I think if trash piles up on the streets, you folks are charged with making sure that's taken care of, and I trust that you will."

Donna Rae Sutherland said the city getting out of the trash business is "bad governance" because it's the city's responsibility to provide shared services that benefit all residents.

Part of the economic calculation, she said, needs to include the local impact of Genesee ARC on jobs created, taxes paid, money spent locally -- the whole multiplier effect of local employment.

A trash collection committee should be formed, she said, to come up with a plan in conjunction with ARC that will increase recycling and create shared revenue with the city.

A select-your-own system, she said, is just going to lead to problems.

"Absentee landlords and unruly tenants will certainly clash over who pays and who is responsible for trash collection," Sutherland said. "Neighbors with garbage contacts and business owners with Dumpsters will find other people’s trash added to their own. Pocket parks and green spaces and back alleys will become drop garbage zones and our streets will become more congested with trash vendors."

Roach said, free choice works in other communities and there's no reason it can't work in Batavia.

"Former City Council President Charlie Mallow has moved to Webster where they have this free choice system and everybody has a different service provider," Roach said. "According to the former city council president, it is not a major problem, trucks running up and down the streets or anything like that. It’s workable. Glens Falls doesn’t have a problem. Saratoga doesn’t have a problem. The Town of Batavia doesn’t have a problem. Get out of the trash business. I don’t need anybody telling me who I have to hire."

March 11, 2013 - 4:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

Organizers of the Facebook group "Batavians Want to Keep ARC Trash Collection" have been exhorting their members this week to show up at 7 tonight at City Hall for a public hearing on the proposed trash ordinance.

The new trash law would require each city resident to contract individually for trash collection.

Genesee ARC's director Donna Saskowski has said the agency is ready to go into the competitive trash business, but some ARC supporters are advocating for an ongoing exclusive contract with ARC.

One message:

Hope to see Many People at the Council meeting tomorrow night at 7 for the Public Hearing on the Latest proposed ordinance which would require all residents to hire their own trash contractor by June 1st. If you think it is a bad idea, we really need you to come and show your support and let Council know!

Residents who wish to speak either for or against the proposed ordinance should plan on showing up early and signing in. Speakers will be called to the podium in order of sign-up.

The council will also hold a public hearing on the proposed budget for 2013-2014, which lowers taxes based on the proposal to take garbage collection off the tax roles and have residents become responsible for their own garbage collection.

February 28, 2013 - 8:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

Genesee ARC Executive Director Donna Saskowski told reporters Wednesday night that the local media can help get the word out: "We're ready to be in the trash business."

Of course, ARC has been in the trash business for 28 years, but things are about to get a whole lot different.

Now that the City of Batavia is apparently getting out of the trash business completely -- if approved, the cost of collecting trash will no longer be part of property taxes -- ARC will need to come up with its own fee structure, develop its own customer database, handle its own billing and compete in a new market that will likely include garbage collection heavyweights such as Waste Management and Allied Republic.

Wednesday night, the city council approved public hearings at 7 p.m., March 11 for a revised budget that lowers the tax rate and removes from the city's solid waste law all city responsibility for garbage collection.

The changes, if approved by the council, would mean city residents would start contracting with their own garbage hauler -- or take their garbage to a transfer station themselves -- beginning June 1.

By removing garbage from the city budget, but extending ARC's contract for two more months, the 2013-2014 property tax rate will be $9.30 per thousand of assessed value.

While that is still a 13.17-percent decrease over the 2012-2013 tax rate, it's slightly higher than the proposed tax rate had the original trash collection proposal been approved.

The adjusted tax rate is necessary to fund the $185,000 in additional expense for providing garbage service through ARC to city residents in April and May.

As soon as the new garbage collection law is approved, the city will begin the process of notifying residents. Each property owner will receive a letter along with a list of known trash haulers that might provide service in the City of Batavia.

It will be up to each resident to contact a preferred hauler and arrange for service.

Molino said he would anticipate from two to five haulers deciding to provide service to city residents.

Saskowski said ARC is preparing a plan to become one of the private haulers that offers service to city residents.

While getting to this point was painful for everybody involved, Saskowski said, the change does represent an opportunity for Genesee ARC.

The agency is looking at expanding service into the Town of Batavia and maybe adding a transfer station to its West Main Street Road location.

Expanded services would likely mean more opportunity for ARC to fulfill its primary mission, which is to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

"I wish the process had been a little easier," Saskowski said. "I think it's been hard on everybody, ARC, city management; it's been a tough thing for the whole city. I hope soon everything can be resolved and people can go back to not being angry and upset."

There are still logistical questions for ARC to work out, such as how to handle billing (possibly through a vendor), and whether to offer a flat-fee service or a pay-per-bag service.

ARC will of course continue to collect recycling, and will collect recycling regardless of the source -- paying customer or not, Saskowski said.

"We will pick up recycling from whoever wants to give us recycling, or they can bring it to us," Saskowski said.

The new law will put the entire burden for getting rid of trash and recyclables on the residents or business owners in the city.

Some key points of the new law:

  • No specified trash days. Trash haulers will pick up garbage on their own schedule and inform their customers of that schedule;
  • Containers are not specified. Trash haulers will tell you whether they will pick up bags, cans or totes (and haulers that use totes will presumably provide the totes);
  • Residents cannot put out their garbage before 3 p.m. prior to their specified collection day;
  • Residents will have 24 hours to store their empty cans or totes after collection;
  • Code enforcement officers will tag homes that have excess garbage piled up and that violate other terms of the ordinance;
  • If you're able to get your trash to a transfer station yourself, you are not required to have a private hauler at all.

The city isn't planning on any additional expense for code enforcment, City Manager Jason Molino said.

"Right now, it's premature to assume we're going to have problems or to what extent we do," Molino said.

For the first 30 to 60 days, the city's code enforcement officers may engage in a stepped-up enforcement effort with a zero-tolerance policy to help educate noncompliant residents of the new law, Molino said.

Property owners -- whether owner-occupied or landlords -- who own properties that don't comply with garbage collection requirements face possible fines and the cost of clean-up.

The change in the law gets garbage collection off the city's books, which Molino said is important in a day and age where expenses need to be trimmed from municipal budgets.

Just like offloading the city's dispatch center and ambulance service, there is one less expense on the city's budget under this plan.

"It's a very costly service and we just don't have the ability to continue to provide it," Molino said.

Molino indicated he still thinks the original proposal -- a single franchised contractor for the entire city, but still fee-based rather than tax-based -- was in the best interest of residents.

"I don't think we went into this thinking, 'how are we going to get out of the trash business?' " Molino said. "We went into this thinking how can we provide the most efficient, cost-effective service possible."

February 27, 2013 - 6:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

City residents can expect city-provided garbage collection to continue until May 31.

After that date, residents will be responsible for getting rid of their own trash, either through a private hauler or taking it themselves to a transfer station.

Property taxes sufficient to pay for an extra two months of municipal garbage pick-up will be collected in 2013.

A motion to amend the city budget and move the proposal forward passed unanimously.

Public hearings will be held in two weeks on the proposed budget as amended and proposed changes in the solid waste law.

The primary change to the law gets the city completely out of the trash business. Residents will have the option to contract with private companies -- which could potentially include Genesee ARC -- to pick up their trash.

The city will send notices to all residents with contact information for private haulers.

The new ordinance will allow residents to use cans, totes or bags. How garbage is left curbside will depend on the hauler.

Residents will also be able to take their trash to the transfer station in the Town of Batavia if they don't want to contract with a hauler.

UPDATE 6:47 p.m.: Introduction of the proposed wording of the solid waste law passed unanimously. The ordinance doesn't become law until after a public hearing followed by a vote to ratify the law.

UPDATE 6:49 p.m.: The public hearings will be at 7 p.m., March 11.

MORE T/K ... We'll have full details later tonight or in the morning. The meeting is still in progress.

February 26, 2013 - 12:37am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

As it stands right now, if you're a City of Batavia resident, you have no idea who will pick up your garbage come April 1.

Monday night, the city council rejected, on a 2-7 vote, a change in the trash ordinance that, by their own admission, they asked city staff to draft. And with the Genesee ARC contract expiring March 31, it will take some quick work to come up with a new trash plan.

The clear direction from the council members after the 2-7 vote: get the city out of the trash business.

That means a municipal contract with Genesee ARC, after 28 years, will not be renewed and each property owner or resident will be free to select any trash collection vendor.

Councilman Jim Russell said that while council members heard from Genesee ARC supporters, they also heard from a lot of people who liked the proposed changes to trash collection in the city. But more, he said, they heard from people who said the city shouldn't be involved in trash collection at all.

"The City of Batavia or any government entity doesn’t belong in business if they don’t have to be," Russell said. "We have a lot of work to do. But if we can make this happen, people will have the choice they asked for."

Donna Saskowski, executive director of Genesee ARC, said after the decision that her agency is ready to provide trash service to city residents on a contract basis if the council fashions a plan that allows ARC to fulfill its primary mission: Employ people with disabilities.

"I think there needs to be some resolution and some more equitable way to charge people for trash and recycling," Saskowski said.

ARC is has always been ready to provide a rate-based service, she said.

"We never had that discussion," Saskowski said. "They never discussed that with me. We never knew about the rates. I think that’s something that’s really up to the council. We’re ready to provide a service. We’ll see what happens."

Saskowski indicated, however, there's still a chance Genesee ARC could get a sole-source contract with the city.

"I still think preferred-source vendor discussion should still be on the table," Saskowski said. "I don't think the city administration agrees with me, but I think it should.

"I was always willing to work ith the city before and I'm willing to work with them now."

The two votes in favor of the new trash plan came from Pierluigi Cipollone and Rose Mary Christian.

Cipollone pointed out that the proposal before the council was what members asked city staff to draft and by the direction of council, it reduces property taxes.

"If we're trying to be a fisically responsible council, this is something we need to do," Cipollone said.

After the decision was made, Cipollone warned that the council was about to embark on a plan that would cost city residents a lot more money.

"The people of Batavia will be spending more now on an individual basis than they would have from any of the offers on the table," Cipollone said.

Molino said he accepted the council's decision to change directions at the 11th hour.

"We did what we were asked in putting together budget, but sometimes things take turns we can’t predict," Molino said. "That happened this time, so now we respond to it."

At a Wednesday evening meeting, city staff will present a plan to the council that will keep trash out of the city budget -- meaning the 16-percent tax cut is retained -- and prepares the city for conversion to a self-selected, private-hauler solution.

Between now and Wednesday city staff will need to figure out the logistics of ensuring all city residents are ready to contract for their own trash collection by April 1, or find out if it's possible to extend Genesee ARC's contract for some period of time, buying more time for the conversion to a private-hauler system.

February 25, 2013 - 1:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee ARC, garbage collection.

The Batavia City Council meets at city hall tonight at 7 o'clock and top on the agenda are the proposed changes to how garbage and recycling are collected in the city.

The council will be asked to pass several resolutions, which will: alter the city's solid waste code; enter into a bond anticipation note to buy totes; enter into a contract with Allied Waste Services for trash and recycling collection; purchase totes from Cascade Engineering; establish a refuse and recycling fund; and set a refuse and recycling user fee.

All must pass in order for a new system to go into effect.

Supporters of Genesee ARC are expected once again to fill council chambers in hopes of persuading at least five council members to vote against the proposed plan.

If the changes go through, a 28-year relationship between ARC and the city for garbage collection comes to an end.

Following the seven resolution items, the council will be asked to adopt a budget resolution. The budget contains an 16-percent cut in the property tax rate. The reduction hinges on the new trash program. If that vote fails, it's unlikely the council will be able to approve the proposed budget and the city will need to redraft the budget.

There is no agenda item for public comment during the special business meeting.

Following the special business meeting, the council will hold a conference meeting.

On the conference meeting agenda are items to establish an investment policy and the Dwyer Stadium lease for the Batavia Muckdogs.

Also on the agenda is consideration of foreclosed properties.

The city has foreclosed on five properties for delinquent property taxes. City staff is recommending three of the properties go up for public auction and that two of the properites be provided to Habitat for Humanity for restoration.

Recommended for auction are:

  • 339-341 Ellicott St., zoned commercial, valued at $60,000 and with $23,061.57 in unpaid property taxes.
  • 10 Swan St., zoned commercial (but looks like a residential property), valued at $61,000 and with $18,730.08 in back taxes.
  • 61 Oak St., single family, valued at $83,000 and with $24,894.08 in taxes owed.

Recommended for Habitat are 11 Harvester Ave. and 2 McKinley. Both properties were once owned by the Pontillo family. Both properties have been vacant for a considerable amount of time. Habitat, according to the staff report, has reviewed both properties and expressed an interest.

Over the past seven years, Habitat has rehabilitated five single-family homes in the city. The average assessed value has climbed from $49,520 to $68,400.

February 22, 2013 - 8:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in wbta, garbage collection.

Dan Fischer, owner and editorial director of WBTA, is broadcasting an editorial today that calls on the Batavia City Council to vote down a proposed ordinance to change how garbage is collected in the city.

The proposal has been contaminated by secrecy and heavy-handed tactics, Fischer says, so the process of deciding how garbage collection should be paid for and handled should start over.

Read the editorial by clicking here or listen to WBTA-AM today.

February 20, 2013 - 9:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

Here's Thomas Houseknecht's response to the letter from Jason Molino that we posted earlier:

UPDATE: We received this e-mail from Thomas Houseknecht this morning. I think Mr. Houseknecht's note at the top explains the need for the update. I'm not a fan of unpublishing something once it's published. Mr. Houseknecht's original e-mail is preserved after the jump (click on the headline); however, the new one is obviously the one that matters most.

After returning home from work late yesterday and reading Mr. Molino's response that I initially read on The Batavian, I too did not see all of the attachments. Having read them all minimally changes my response to withdraw my statements that my questions have not been answered. The text below is my response corrected after reading the other attachments:

Mr. Molino,

I appreciate the service you provide to our community and the difficulties you are faced with as you prepare a budget. As much as I appreciate the invitation to sit down with you and your staff to review numbers, this public letter you have written to me is puzzling and only adds to my discontent with the current refuse and budget proposal. It seems to have been written to once again praise the value of a user fee approach in an effort to mute the opposition in preparation for City Council’s vote on February 25. Unfortunately, as the City has handled this issue with little prior public input and as part of your overall budget proposal, I have had no alternative but to express my concerns through public comments and media postings. Your offer to discuss it at this late date seems disingenuous as it appears that there is little or no time for dialoging to, as you stated, “better communicate our intentions and goals for the City as it relates to refuse collection both now and in the future,” prior to the Council vote merely two business days away.    

In your response, you continue to make your case to impose a user fee and its merits as you see them verses the current means of both collecting refuse and paying for collection. I could make the same argument for school taxes, but both discussions are diversions from the discussion of the actual financial impact on the majority of city residents. In your responses, you draw conclusions that the majority of properties will see a reduction, but this does not necessarily support your conclusion that the majority of residents will save money. Commercial properties, who will be relieved of the costs of refuse collection, are not residents and they do not vote. It stands to reason that if the overall cost of the new program represents a savings of $300,000 to commercial properties and those with higher assessments will achieve a savings as well, that a program with a total savings of approximately $260,000 must be passing on an increase to the lowest valued properties in the city. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that this proposal will adversely affect the majority. I appreciate that you do recognize that failure to remove it from the property tax will cause Council to have to vote to exceed the property tax cap with the current budget as proposed.

My assumptions were simple and need no further explanation as they were arrived at through the City’s website postings, including the 2012 tax rolls. You have the best possible access to this data, yet you again present a biased view of the actual number of city residents who will effectively be paying more for their city services under your proposal. Your answers draw conclusions that once again skew the argument to the user fee. The fact sheet on the City’s website states that “close to 90 percent of city residents will save money under the proposed plan” in a comparison of the current program to a user fee program. At a recent Council meeting, you were quoted in the news media stating that 65 to 75 percent of residents will save money. Your most recent response to my questions as presented to City Council states that 56.4% of single family homes will save. Clearly, from your own statements, the percentage of homes that will save has changed throughout these proceedings. Please explain these statements to the residents of Hutchins St., Swan St., Kingsbury Ave., Lyon St., Tracy Ave., to name a few where the vast majority will pay more. Again I ask, what is the actual number of city residents that will pay more?

Your response to my e-mail to City Council, that I have just received for the first time, attempts to discredit my analysis of homes that will pay more by discounting those that are multi-family and rental properties. As these residents will also be impacted, is it fair to exclude them? Also, the Senior discount does not eliminate the fee, it merely lowers the break-even point. I believe this furthers the argument that the full impact has not been assessed. The misrepresentations in the City’s presentation cause me to further question some of your new assertions. 

Batavia has historically included refuse collection in the property tax.  Converting to a user fee may be desirable from a budget preparer’s standpoint, but it will adversely impact the majority of city residents. This simple fact must be recognized and be a part of the discussion. City management’s attempt to leave this fact out of the discussion is unacceptable and dishonest to me. It is possible that all of the numbers being discussed by both of us are thoroughly confusing to City residents.  Therefore, at the public hearing I asked Council, and will again ask Council to take the five following steps :

1. If you still have doubts about the analysis I have presented, have city management or an independent party review the tax roles and determine exactly how many residents will be adversely impacted. The 2012 assessment role is available on the city’s website for all to see.

2. Once you have completed your due diligence, vote against the change to the ordinance that is required to change the current refuse program to a user fee.

3. Find out why you were presented with bad information upon which to base your decision and take the appropriate actions to insure that it doesn’t happen again.

4. Take another look at the budget and cut unnecessary functions of city government.

5. Establish a refuse committee of citizens, which I would be happy to serve on, to look at how recycling could be increased or a PAYT system could be phased in with ARC as our provider in a manner that would truly benefit all residents.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that I appreciate the difficult job you have in preparing and implementing a budget for the City of Batavia, especially when faced with NY’s property tax cap. I simply ask that all of the facts be presented in a fair, honest and concise manner before our council members are asked to put their reputations on the line with their votes.

Thomas Houseknecht

February 20, 2013 - 4:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

City Manager Jason Molino sent a copy of this letter, addressed to Thomas Houseknecht, to members of the local media:

Mr. Houseknecht-

You have asked for responses to your comments over the past several weeks regarding the proposed refuse and recycling program. Attached are my responses to your questions. 

I understand your concern over the impact the proposed program may have on the those who can least afford it. While I share the same concern, I disagree with your analysis that lower assessed properties properly represents, or in any form correlates, to those who can least afford it. For example the average assessed single family home in the city is $92,112, while the average assessed two-family home is $76,534 and the average assessed triple-family home is $84,380. According to a recent EPA study, multi-family properties that have more than one household generate 1.5 times or more refuse (depending on the number of units) than a single-family property. In addition, the study states recycling tonnage per household is 65 percent greater for single-family households than for multi-family households. Considering doubles and triples generate from 1.5 to 3 times the amount of garbage as a single-family home, recycle significantly less and the property owners pay less in taxes, the current system is inequitable as we pay for garbage based on the amount of assessed value of our homes with no relationship to how much we throw out, don’t throw out, recycle or don’t recycle.

The proposed refuse fee does not target any one type of resident or property owner; instead it is intended to provide an equitable way to pay for a service based on a rational relationship between the cost of the service and the amount of service each resident uses. Similar to water, sewer, cable, electric, gas, phone and all other utilities, assessed value is not a determinant of the cost of the service, nor does it properly represent the amount of service used by individual property owners or residents.  Furthermore assessed value is not a valid method for determining the cost of refuse and recycling collection to residents.

I appreciate your passion for the refuse collection issue in Batavia and in particular for your support of ARC and its endeavors. I welcome the opportunity to sit down with you and my staff to review the numbers and understand how you arrived at some of the assumptions made in your statements to city council. Dialoging with you would certainly help us understand how we might better communicate our intentions and goals for the city as it relates to refuse collection both now and in the future.  


Jason Molino

UPDATE: I failed to take note of four attachments with Jason Molino's e-mail.  Here they are (all links are to PDFs):

February 12, 2013 - 11:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, garbage collection.

Last night's turn out for a public hearing on trash collection was the largest attendance for a city council meeting in recent memory.

According to fire code, only 246 people are permitted into council chambers at any one time, and last night Fire Chief Jim Maxwell and a Batavia PD officer were monitoring the doorway to prevent more people from entering until some people left.

The city council heard a variety of opinions about a proposed change in the Batavia Municipal Code governing how trash is collected in the city.

In all, 28 people took to the podium to address the council, and most of the speakers supported Genesee ARC, the local agency that has provided garbage and recycling collection services to city residents for 28 years.

"If it ain't broke, why fix it?" was a common refrain.

There were also speakers who support the proposed change to the municipal code and a couple of speakers who neither supported the proposed change nor necessarily back Genesee ARC keeping the garbage collection contract. They favor the city getting out of garbage collection altogether and letting property owners pick their own haulers.

In the end, no vote was taken -- the council vote is scheduled for Feb. 25 -- but there was a proposal from Councilwoman Patti Pacino that city staff schedule an informational meeting before the vote where residents can get their questions answered.

City Manager Jason Molino said speakers during the evening made at least 25 statements that were factually incorrect or need clarification and that such an informational meeting might be a good idea.

Unlike a public hearing, city staff would be able to answer questions and clarify information for both the public and council members at such a meeting.

No date was set, or even a confirmation that such a meeting would take place.

The public hearing began with a warning from City Attorney George Van Nest that speakers could not -- under state law, he said -- lobby the council on behalf or against any company that bid on the trash contract.

Van Nest said from the time the bids were requested until the time the bid is awarded, if it is, is considered a "restricted period" and anything related to any bidders could not be discussed.

The sole topic of consideration before the council was the proposed change to the solid waste law and not which company might be awarded the bid if the law is changed.

"State finance law prohibits those comments," Van Nest said. "State procurement procedures require that we follow the law. Please don't comment or lobby on behalf of any particular vendor."

Many speakers strayed from a strict interpretation of Van Nest's instructions. A few were told by Van Nest to confine their comments to the proposed new law and refrain from mentioning a particular vendor.

Some speakers had fun with the restrictions, making statements like "the vendor we all know."

The majority of the 246 people in the room were Genesee ARC supporters. They carried signs that read "No Totes" and "Keep ARC" and early on loudly applauded speakers who opposed the tote system in any manner.

The applause brought repeated warnings from Council President Tim Buckley to keep the disruption to a minimum so the meeting could move along swiftly.

People only stopped clapping following speakers after Buckley stood up and threatened to have the room cleared if the applause persisted.

The first speaker, Blake Elliott, didn't get much applause. He was one of three speakers completely supportive of the proposed change in the law.

"I still believe one source is the best way to go," Elliott said. "I don't believe it should be part of the taxpayers' bill. We need a system that is fair, equitable, variable and includes positive things for recycling and doesn't require trash and recycling blowing down the street."

Maidul Kahn also spoke in favor of the new law. He even praised Molino.

"All we hear now is tax and spend, over and over, year after year, tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend," Kahn said. "Finally, I found somebody from the city, our city manager here, who has a proposal to cut taxes. It's unheard of, really. I really commend you Mr. Molino for coming up with this program. We pay enough taxes and we can use some tax relief."

Former Councilman Bill Cox also praised the anticipated tax savings and said the council was moving in the right direction to get trash collection off the tax rolls.

Cox said council members were elected to "do whatever is in your power to lower taxes."

Several speakers accused city management of really playing some sort of shell game with the suggestion that taxes will go down with the proposal.

Thomas Houseknecht, who owns commercial property in the city, said he will personally benefit from the proposed change. Still, he considers a user-fee to be a regressive tax -- costing poorer property owners more money and giving only rich property owners an actual tax break.

"If you vote in favor of this resolution and subsequently accept the bid from Allied Republic as the lowest bid, you are doing so at the expense of the most vulnerable part of our population, both ARC employees and taxpayers," Houseknecht said.

Jennifer Elmore said her home is assessed at $46,000. The new law would more than double what she pays for garbage collection now.

If the change in the local law fails, Molino has said property taxes could go up to more than $11 per thousand of assessed value.

Dave O'Geen said he calculated that the cost savings amounts to 11 cents a day and the cost savings isn't worth what would be lost.

"I would be ashamed to be part of a community that would even consider something like this," O'Geen said. "What are you going to tell your family, your children, your grandchildren, when they ask you if you voted to lay off a bunch of disabled individuals to save 11 cents a day?"

More than one speaker said they could afford the tax increase and would gladly pay it to protect Genesee ARC.

"I personally can afford another 11 cents a day and I really want to keep the people collecting my trash," Janet Saile said.

Charles Green, a 33-year resident of Batavia, questioned why a contract would be awarded to an out-of-town company that he doesn't believe the city knows enough about.

"I’ve seen a lot of changes in the city, but I got to tell you, in all honesty, the one thing I never thought that I would see was that I had to, mandated by law, buy a service from a company that I have no idea who they are," Green said. "I suspect most of the people behind me have never heard of them and quite frankly I’m not to sure the people in front of me have heard of them."

Speakers such as Dave Meyer, Jim Rosenbeck and John Roach questioned why the city is involved in trash collection at all, whether it's contracting with Genesee ARC or buying totes and requiring residents to get their garbage picked up by a single vendor.

Let residents hire their own contractors to pick up garbage, they suggested.

"There's an easy answer to all this," Meyer said. "The city gets out of the way and gets out of the trash business and lets homeowners make their own arrangements."

Meyer cited Saratoga Springs, a city of 27,000 people, as an example of a municipality that handles garbage collection that way. But after the meeting, Shawn McGoran, manager of municipal services for Allied Republic (the low bidder on the proposed trash contract) said in his experience, such an arrangement is highly unusual these days.

Ninety percent of all residents in WNY, he said, live an area with just one hauler, be it a contract provider or a city-operated service (such as Tonawanda).

"There's always issues and change is always an issue for folks, but we still believe we have something to offer the city," McGoran said, but was hesitant to comment further given state procurement rules.

"I think the proposal we submitted speaks for itself," McGoran said. "We're going to offer a great service as we do to 185,000 homes in Western New York, and we've been doing it for years."

After the public comments were closed, some council members made brief comments.

Rose Mary Christian wanted the world to know, regardless of what's been printed elsewhere, she has no prior business arrangement with Allied. Her current trash hauler for her business is Waste Management.

Councilman Pierluigi Cipollone took exception to the suggestion by a couple of speakers that the council was being led around by the nose by Molino. He said Molino is taking direction from the council and the proposal he brought forward was at the request of the council.

Cipollone also said he has personally checked the city's tax roles and confirmed a majority of residential property owners will save money under the proposed changes.

"It is true that more than 50 percent and close to 60 percent of the population will save money," Cipollone said. "We're not misleading anybody"

After the meeting, Molino was asked for examples of things people said that were either wrong or need clarification.

For one, Molino said, the idea that the city is going to take out a bond to borrow $500,000 is wrong. The city will borrow money, but it will be paid back before a bond is necessary, and the city will save money in the process.

"It's a temporary note to make an investment of $500,000 and the pay off is at a 2-1 ratio," Molino said. "You're saving more than $1 million."

He also said the city needs to get information out about what happens when carts are stolen or damaged. Clearly, he said, people don't understand the process. He said city staff will explain such things either at a future meeting or through other means once all the questions and issues have been gathered and reviewed.

A number of people wanted to know why there wasn't public discussion about changing how trash was collected prior to the request for bids going out.

Molino said public discussion just wasn't possible.

"Before, we were doing a lot of research and we were in discussions with the current vendor trying to make these changes," Molino said. "At that stage of the game, there really is not the ability to comment."

As for being the focal point of a lot of criticism Monday night, Molino said that's just part of the job.

"Council hired me to do a job and manage the city in the most efficient and effective means possible," Molino said. "They hired me to address controversial issues and not hide behind them. We are trying to address an issue. Is it going to create controversy? Sure. We’re trying to do what’s in the best interest of the community. That is my job. I understand that there is obviously two sides to every story. We dealt with this with the ambulance service. We dealt with this with dispatch, as well as with some financial problems. They’re very difficult issues to deal with. They’re emotional. This is an emotional issue. We understand that, but that doesn’t mean we don’t address it."

PHOTOS: Top, Steve Ognibene signs a petition during a rally in support of Genesee ARC prior to the council meeting; Carol Grasso speaks at the rally; Blake Elliott; Tim Buckley and Jim Russell; Maidul Kahn; people in the audience; Tom Houseknecht; Jim Rosenbeck; Jason Molino; George Van Nest; Kathy Briggs and Brooks Hawley.

February 11, 2013 - 4:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee ARC, garbage collection.

Even as supporters of Genesee ARC hope to garner enough public support to sway the Batavia City Council away from trashing a 30-year relationship for garbage collection in the city, the agency is looking at its options should it lose the garbage contact.

ARC Executive Director Donna Saskowski said she's formed an internal task force to look at all of the options for the agency.

The core mission of ARC, Saskowski said, is to provide services and employment to people with disabilities. That will not change, regardless of the outcome of the proposed changes to the local solid waste law.

"My job is to take care of the people we serve," Saskowski said. "We're researching as many options as possible."

Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator for the Batavia Development Corp. (BDC), has also stepped in to help line up resources for placing any agency employees who might otherwise be eligible for unemployment.

Of the 30 people who work in the garbage and recycling collection program, some are more properly classified as clients of ARC, Saskowski explained, and even though they are paid for their work, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Those people, Saskowski said, will continue to be assigned work by ARC one way or the other.

Another group are actually employees of the agency and must work in community-based employment.

If jobs are not found for them, they would be eligible for unemployment benefits.

There are approximately -- the number fluctuates -- 15 such people.

Some of the agency's employees who could be affected by a loss of the contract have no disabilities.

Pacatte is pulling together resources, including the county's Job Development Bureau to help them find work.

There are private employers who have already expressed an interest and both Pacatte and Saskowski hope more come forward.

Nationally, 70 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed.

"We're looking for any company that could use a well-trained, dedicated workforce," Saskowski said. "We work with each individual and try to find the best situation for (him or her)."

Pacatte said there are a few tax-credit programs employers can benefit from if they hire a person with a disability.

Working to help ARC is what the BDC should do, Pacatte said, "with any company that is anticipating any kind of major shift in their workforce."

If the council votes against the proposed ordinance change, Saskowski said she doesn't really know what will happen with garbage collection in Batavia come March 31 when the current contract expires. She referred that question to City Manager Jason Molino.

"I couldn't even address it at this point," Saskowski said.

Late this afternoon, Molino wasn't immediately available for comment.

Along with finding jobs for anyone displaced by a change in garbage collection, ARC is looking for other companies to do contract work for and other entrepreneurial options.

"We're looking at just about anything and everything," Saskowski said.

Information for employers:


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