Skip to main content

Council hears from public on proposed changes to trash collection law

By Howard B. Owens
Mar 12, 2013, 8:58am

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."

Mark Potwora

Don't we have to have a budget in place by April 1...And wasn't this a public meeting on the new budget.To vote this budget down the city will have to go back and redo the whole budget and have to have a new hearing on another budget...You can't enact a higher tax rate without a public hearing..These speakers are rehashing the same complaints with the budget..They had last time...The city is out of the trash business time to move on..If i was council i wouldn't wait till the 25th to vote.Do it now and get it over..Let put this to rest.

Mar 12, 2013, 12:44pm Permalink
Mark Janofsky

Mark, why do you and many others talk about the City being in the trash business? The City is/was never in the trash business. None of the trucks are owned by the City and none of the sanitation workers are public employees. One thing is for sure now, 80 to 90 percent of the city residents will be paying more now. Last week I got quotes over the phone for curb side pickup. WM will charge about $400/year for totes and PSI will charge about $310 for bags. I’m thinking the breakeven point will be an assessment of $200,000 to $250,000.

Mar 12, 2013, 7:14pm Permalink
Michael Pullinzi

The Town of Batavia is not a City and population is spread out and non-comparable to the multitude of problems faced with trash issues by those in a densely populated City. Saratoga does indeed have problems with illegal dumping and had to hire extra staffing to man the transfer station. Additionally, The City of Batavia has no available transfer station like Saratogo and Glens Falls and is also not compariable on that basis. A BIG difference. The question is not why the new proposals can not work in Batavia, and instead should be what is broke that some few want to fix? The current system was a well thought out system that the overwhelming majority of citizens like, want, and has worked well. Additionally, it has provided employment to area individuals with disabilities so citizens are getting a two for one bang for their buck in getting and providing vital services to the community. Shortsightedness is not a good way to govern. The end result of all this nonsense may be that we finally get some new members on City Council that fully think through things before they vote. Hopefully, citizens will start doing the same so some changes can be made.

Mar 12, 2013, 9:43pm Permalink
Phil Ricci

All I hear are the same type of doom and gloom conversations that were going on when the ambulance service was in debate. Do you all remember? No ambulance will come? Dead bodies in the street? Sound familiar? Replace it with trash now.

I'll I've heard is how much it's going to cost, but so far I have heard nothing as of yet. I've heard nothing from ARC on what their pricing will be, so I find it interesting that everyone is so confident on what the price will be.

So....yeah. I'll actually wait to hear some real facts, instead of the nonsense that I have listened to for the past few weeks.

Mar 12, 2013, 10:39pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

Whether you liked the first system or not with the totes system we were only going to pay 177 dollars a year for trash..Council has now bowed down to the pro ARC crowd and it looks like we will pay twice as much.Between 300\400 dollars a year...Thank the pro ARC crowd for this huge increase...They are the one costing the lest fortunate to have to pay more..Thank all you pro ARC supporters..Because of you our trash cost will double.Way to go pro ARC group for making us all pay more then we have to to support your pet cause....They the pro ARC crowd is costing us ,more money ,
not city council..

Mar 13, 2013, 12:44am Permalink
John Roach

Again, you can still have ARC. Not one person will be denied the right to keep ARC. The only difference now will be that you will have to hire them on your own.

Mar 13, 2013, 6:01am Permalink
Dave Meyer

Phil, you took the words right out of my mouth.

I spoke at the Council meeting on Monday and I told council that I supported the decision that had been made. I also said that barring a huge cost disadvantage, that I would no doubt stay with ARC as my trash collector and that EVERYONE IN THE CITY would have the opportunity to do the same.

Like you, I have no idea what their pricing structure will be so I'm not going to make stuff up, but I'll ask rhetorically, why would it be hugely different from what it is right now? With the exception that users will be paying ARC directly I would not foresee a huge difference.

I may be wrong, and again, I'll wait until I have some facts, but all this gloom and doom is ridiculous.

Actually, this could be a big opportunity for ARC to GROW their trash collection and recycling business and potentially be able to employ MORE people than they do now.

Mar 13, 2013, 6:35am Permalink

Authentically Local