BATAVIA – In a surprising and far-reaching decision, the City Council has voted to get out of the trash-collection business and let property owners choose their own collector.
The Council voted 7-2 on Monday to turn down a five-year contract with Allied Waste Services of Lancaster, the successful bidder that cost Genesee ARC the job it had held for nearly three decades. The Council told city residents that starting April 1, they will be on their own to select someone to collect garbage and recyclables.
Last month the Council asked for a study so that property taxes could be lowered. The administration then sought bids for trash service for the first time. Allied was the lowest. It would have saved the city about $250,000 a year and cut costs for businesses that paid for pickups through taxes but did not use the service.
Property taxes, which covered trash collection, were lowered by 16 percent. However, losing the contract would idle Genesee ARC’s 30 workers, most of them developmentally disabled.
That and uncertainties about the new partly automated system spurred supporters of the status quo to pack the Council Chambers at recent meetings, with standing-room-only crowds, signs and speeches.
Donna Saskowski, executive director of ARC, said her organization is ready to be a sole source contractor with individual property owners for pickups or might seek a limited time extension with the city while options are sought.
Ward Council Members Pier Cipollone and Rose Mary Christian cast the two “no” votes. The Council tabled its remaining agenda, including a $15.3 million budget for the fiscal year starting April 1.
City property owners, especially homeowners, may face some hard decisions after March 31 when Genesee ARC’s garbage collection ends.
The Council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. today to plan for the day when property owners, after decades of city garbage pickups, will have to shop for their own deal.
City Manager Jason R. Molino said after April 1 homeowners will pay a separate fee for the service that was for years part of tax bills.
ARC’s bid was $223 per household per year. Other vendors’ rates would have been higher, up to $400 a year, according to some Council members.
By eliminating another service, the city completes a trifecta for the future. Earlier, the city closed its police dispatch service and transferred it to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office. It also privatized ambulance service with Mercy Flight’s new ground response.