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City council backs trash freedom for Batavia residents

By Howard B. Owens

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.

RD Adams

My question that needs answering by those who voted for the city to get out of the trash business is what is going to be done to prevent those who are too lazy or uninformed to obtain trash service from a vendor when they start dumping their trash in business receptacles or on private lawns around the city? I personally have no idea who to contact to get trash picked up and I can assure you 75% of city residents don't know either. ARC is not going to contract with people on an individual basis. Doesn't make sense. It's like health care. If you obtain health care insurance from your employer, you get a reduced contracted rate with whoever the provider is. If you go out and try to buy insurance as just an individual, then your rate can be as much as 45% higher than a contracted group rate.

The city should have kept it a line item on city taxes. This started off as an "easy" way to drop the tax burden and ended up being twisted into a government vs. individual rights issue. Hogwash. There are better ways to drop the tax burden on city residents and we wouldn't have to worry about who is going to dump trash in front of my house at night. Share some or more of the sales tax revenue the Town enjoys with the city is a good start. After all aren't those businesses using city services like water and sewer? That's a harder issue to persue. Our city taxes are not that bad when you start to look at other counties across NYS. I know because I see the data every tax cycle. Did anyone actually look at the proposed city budget posted on the city's website? There is a ton of fluff in there not associated with trash pickup. Take a look at police and fire salaries and how much was spent on salt last year. Are we getting our monies worth is the question we should be asking on each item. I believe we were as far as trash collection goes.

Feb 26, 2013, 7:38am Permalink
John Roach

Code enforcement will have to be stepped up to see that what you are worried about does not happen.

As for water, thanks to a vote years ago by then councilman and now county legislaor, Ed Dejanerio, we do not supply water to the Town of Batavia. In fact we have to buy our own water from Monroe County. The Town already pays its share of the sewage treatment.

There is no easy way to cut 16% unless you cut police and fire protection. If you really think that, give us a better example of how.

And why wouldn't ARC advertise their rates? There is money to be made. I am sure other companies will be around to solicit business.

Feb 26, 2013, 7:49am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Two days to figure out a transition plan? Good luck with that Jason. You people better slow your roll with this euphoria over individual rights and make sure everyone has time to get their garbage picked up. There isn't even a third party prepared to take calls to order service yet.

The hero's of the revolution are going to be strung up if there's garbage in the streets.

Feb 26, 2013, 8:17am Permalink
Raymond Richardson


If you see someone dumping trash on private lawns, and even in business dumpsters, that is a crime, it's called illegal dumping of refuse.

Call 9-1-1!

Feb 26, 2013, 8:50am Permalink
Lori Silvernail

This whole change has been in the works for a very long time...but the residents didn't know about it. So this isn't "the people's" fault if they have only 2 days to come up with some sort of plan! My thought is that had they presented this stuff last Fall, the input from the residents may have been very helpful and the chaos that appears to be looming could have been avoided.

And nothing is set in stone as far as whether they can or cannot extend the Arc's contract. That would make the most sense in our situation. Let's see if they can talk together nicely and buy themselves some time to make the transition go more smoothly.

Feb 26, 2013, 9:01am Permalink
Phil Ricci

It's time for emotion to be put aside and logic to step in.

Here is what needs to happen:

1) Sign a 60-90 day extension with ARC so that you can get organized.
2) Send out a mass letter to every private trash service in 50 mile radius informing them that Batavia is going private on said date.
3) Create and modify ordinances for both logistics and code enforcement.
3a) For logistics, simply say that there shall be no more than 2 service providers permitted per day. That's up to 14 different providers that could come through.
3b) Code enforcement: Any resident, or building owner who's denizens or tenants create a public health violation will be fined. This dollar amount should be high. At the end of the day, personal responsibility has to be held higher than inaction due to the fear that a small minority won't do the right thing.
4) Educate your public. Utilize every news source, send information to every house, use robo calls, and most importantly, every member of council must hold numerous community events in their wards to educate their neighbors. The City Manager's office will be responsible to speak with businesses and group homes.

Overall folks, this is very doable. Everyone needs to put the doom and gloom away and get practical.

Feb 26, 2013, 9:03am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Phil, on 3a), the solution is require haulers to abide by the current zone system. The days of the week remain the same for each zone and every contractor sticks to that system.

Based on conversations last night, I'd look for containers being required (not necessarily totes), and code enforcement with fines for people who let trash pile up.

Feb 26, 2013, 9:34am Permalink
Mark Potwora

The fiscal year runs from 4/1/2013-3/31/2013...To extend the contract with ARC past that date causes many budget issues....What shocks me is Saskowski indicated, however, there's still a chance Genesee ARC could get a sole-source contract with the city.Where is the freedom to choose in that statement...She wants to force all to buy her service...

Feb 26, 2013, 10:14am Permalink
RD Adams

I appreciate the correction regarding town water and sewer. City politics is a new arena for me and I may not be as up to date as I should or could be. I still believe however that a better alternative to lowering the tax burden on city residents should be investigated in other arenas besides trash collection. Using the lowest bidder is great, but leave that cost with the city. We are getting what we pay for in so far as trash collection. Since I do not have first hand knowledge of the contracts between the police and fire departments and the city, I am in no position to give specifics on how to reduce those budgetary items. In the private sector however, employees are being asked to pay higher portions if not the entire amount of health care premiums, seeing elimination of pension/401K plans, limiting overtime, etc. in order to bring down costs. I don't believe that level of cost cutting has transferred to the government sector as equally though as those types of cuts are next to impossible to pass through because no politician wants to be portrayed as making the community less safe by cutting the police or fire departments. I also don't think it is out of the question to proportionately share sales tax revenue with the town either, if we are not already. Having the population density of the city of Batavia basically right across the street is a huge benefit to those businesses that line the northwestern boarder between the city and town. I agree there are no easy ways to cut the tax burden. I would only ask that every item in the budget be scrutinized with the idea of are we as tax payers in the city getting what we pay for.

Feb 26, 2013, 12:09pm Permalink
John Roach

The police and fire contracts often go to binding arbitration here, so you just never really know how they will come out.

Sales tax is not shared by the city with the town. Sales tax is shared by Genesee County with the City, town and villages. And the County is not about to give up more of its share anymore than the State will give up more of its share.

Feb 26, 2013, 12:33pm Permalink
Robert Brown

Comparing garbage removal and recycling to healthcare is an apples to oranges exercise. The healthcare industry is orchestrated by the insurance sector and cost/profit practices that take advantage of everything the government has to offer from our tax dollars. Until the actual costs of healthcare services are unchained from government funding, there will be spiraling costs. Despite the "Affordable Care Act" costs have continued to rise in the form of increased deductibles and higher premiums and you can bet with the increasing cost of medical education service costs will rise as well.

The garbage industry is a much different beast and is better compared to other services such as water and sewage, electricity, natural gas, cable, phone, etc... Yes those industries ebb and flow but they do so in manageable sense and in a model that allows the consumer to make choices and pay based on use. The market dictates the behavior, not the government.

The current garbage collection system in the City of Batavia is not fair and the assessed value of someone's property has no bearing on the level of garbage service needed nor the amount of recycling done.

As far as looking at other potential savings in the city budget, no one is saying services necessarily need to be cut to be provided more cost effectively. It's time we stopped doing everything just because that's the way they have always been done. There is a process for everything and not all established processes continue to run as efficiently as they could be over time given changes in technology, the system, customer need, etc... There's no argument that the budget and the processes it covers (or doesn't) need to be continually scrutinized. Every problem is an opportunity - let's make sure we seize the opportunities and continue to think about how to improve our community with a budget that is fair to every citizen.

Feb 26, 2013, 1:06pm Permalink
Mark Brudz

Robert, while I agree that the discussion is apples and orange. Insurance companies never where the orchestrators of Health Care Cost.

Health care cost are primarily controlled by government compensation to doctors and medical facilities for Medicare and Medicaid which is roughly 65% of the actual cost, especially with regard to Medicaid. That is why many doctors do not accept Medicaid patients, and is also why depending on where you live an aspirin in a hospital can cost anywhere from $9-$18.

Healthcare cost began to skyrocket in the mid 80's when legislation enabled HMO's When you do not compensate true cost for a large portion of the population, the balance has to be made up by the rest of the patients. A hospital will charge $18 for a 30 cent bill to attempt to recapture the loss, and the insurance company simply pays it. That is primarily why cost keep escalating, although a bit of a simplification.

But I digress, Garbage and 'The Not So Affordable Health Care Act' are in fact separate issues, you are correct there

Feb 26, 2013, 3:57pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

I hope this is the start of the city looking at other avenues to cut costs for property owners..One that i think that should pursued is the police dept...Why in my county tax do a pay for sheriff's protection such as those in the town of Batavia ,then i pay again in my city of Batavia property tax..Why do those of us that live in the city pay twice for police protection...And those that live in the town only pay once.We should either be paying a lower county tax rate or the county should take over the Batavia police dept..We don't need a Police chief and a County Sheriff....We only need one..Not both..

Feb 26, 2013, 6:59pm Permalink
Duane Preston

Good point Mark. I wonder how much is spent on the upkeep of the city parking lots (snow plowing, salting, snow removal, paving, striping)? For example, can the Save A Lot parking lot be deeded to the outlaying stores so the city is not faced with these costs? Can the Mall lot be maintained by the Mall Merchant Association? I know if you go to Wal-Mart or Office Max, they pay for their own snow removal and parking lot upkeep.

Feb 26, 2013, 9:11pm Permalink
Brian Graz

BTW... Why was this important City Council meeting set for tomorrow evening [Wed 2/27] when there is a very important County Legislature meeting/vote on a real 2nd Amendment issue happening at that time [which was a regularly scheduled meeting]... ???

Feb 26, 2013, 11:07pm Permalink
John Roach

Why meet today? It's called the budget. The budget has to be passed before April 1st. Changes have to be made to it now, public hearings set and held and another vote on trash and the budget. Not much time.

And the County vote will pass, as you well know, probably 9-0, like Howard had said elsewhere.

Feb 27, 2013, 6:49am Permalink

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