CITY OF TONAWANDA — A report on costs associated with refuse collection and disposal in the City of Tonawanda was presented at Tuesday’s council meeting.
At the request of the city, Niagara County Environmental Coordinator Dawn Timm presented a cost analysis comparing the city’s in-house garbage collection costs with private sector rates, and a host of other scenarios.
Timm’s report says the city, on average, spends $1.48 million annually for “all waste services and related maintenance and operations.”
Factoring into the list of services and costs is garbage collection, disposal, recycling and large garbage pickups, equipment, maintenance and all contractual labor costs.
The report notes that public employees’ salary and benefits account for the greatest share of overall costs, including those paid to the city’s 11 sanitation workers.
It goes on to suggest five separate arrangements other than the current garbage collection scheme, including full privatization, every-other-week recycling collection, and/or split public and private waste and recycling services.
Other suggestions were included that, according to Timm, could potentially further reduce expenses by improving collection efficiency or incentivizing waste reduction on the part of residents.
”Enhanced recycling, waste reduction and collection efficiencies create a three tiered impact to overall costs,” the report states. “Balancing these variables in a socially acceptable manner will often generate a significant savings to a municipality.”
Still, city officials wanted to make clear that no changes are even remotely set in stone.
Mayor’s Assistant Sam Iraci said the city, as in all things, is exploring any avenues that could help them stretch revenues in difficult times. He also stressed that no accurate figures on potential savings can be compiled unless a request for proposals to gauge the actual market were to be sent out first.
”It’s a first step to analyze the potential of delivering services in a different manner,” he said.
Timm’s report anticipates the wide spectrum of costs tied to garbage collection will rise steadily, and suggests that, at least hypothetically those costs could immediately be reduced by as much as $390,000 by sometime next year, under the most aggresive suggested plan.
The city is currently in negotiations with the union representing sanitation workers, the City of Tonawanda Employees Association, where potentially a multi-year contract will be discussed.
Iraci made clear the city lacks the authority to “unilaterally subcontract” a service currently being provided by union members, but that nevertheless, officials are trying to glean a better idea of their options for the purpose of negotiations.
”The idea is that if city employees weren’t picking up garbage, they might be available to do other things,” he said.
The council is not currently considering any of the proposals, and has not been asked to ponder any specific changes to the city’s garbage collection.
Contact city editor Neale Gulley at 693-1000, ext. 4114