Submitted by Howard B. Owens on February 28, 2013 - 9:33am
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."