by Alex Muto
The key issue at Wheatfield's Town Board meeting on Tuesday was a motion set for bid to agree to a proposal by Modern Disposal. The proposal would change Wheatfield's trash disposal process to a cart-based system.
Residents of the Town of Wheatfield expressed concerns about the ability to move large items, the slower pace of trash collection, and the greater cost to residents to remove large items from their homes while using a cart-based system. Residents were also concerned that people would hoard their items or dump them in the town because of the difficulty in disposing of them with a cart-based system.
Wheatfield resident Fred Robinson complained about the cart-based system.
"Recycling totes are one thing... garbage totes are completely different." Having had experience with the cart system, he finds that "you can't get large stuff picked up, and you have to go to a monthly system, and nothing gets picked up. If you want to get rid of something in November, oftentimes it's not gone until January."
Furthermore, Robinson fears that he would have to deal with a large amount of garbage in his lawn for a long time in the future.
"At my mother-in-law's house a year-and-a-half ago, we had to clean out the whole house. We lined up garbage in front of the whole house, and it was gone the whole day. From my experiences, if we had been using a tote system, it would have cost a lot of money and taken a long time to get rid of that stuff," he said.
The other audience members who spoke agreed with his complaints. The majority felt that the Town Board was more concerned with the contract proposed by Modern Disposal, which only covers a short period of time, than the needs of Wheatfield's citizens. Multiple residents requested that the board or local media distribute a local survey to gather the general town opinion, hoping to prove that the majority would disagree with the measure.
Town Supervisor Robert Cliffe explained that these issues have been thoroughly reviewed. He argued that Modern Disposal and the Town of Wheatfield Board had considered changing to this system to cut back on wasteful trash. "These are questions we've discussed. If we go to the tote system, which was the recommendation of Modern Disposal, we can cut down on excess garbage." He explained that the haste in making the decision at this meeting was due to the terms of Modern Disposal's proposed contract: "One of the things that Modern offered is that they would buy the totes themselves if we went to this system of garbage collection. However, in order for us to take advantage of this offer, we need to make this decision now." He explains that overall, the contract would likely cost $180,000 less than the town's current agreement.
Cliffe's explanation did not convince town residents of any wisdom to the cart system. Most retorted that the board and Modern Disposal's viewpoint does not consider residents' financial or health concerns, as some residents may not even be well enough to move the much-heavier totes. Residents argued that the fact that the decision was a "one-time decision" according to Cliffe was highly suspicious and indicated that the company was only concerned about its own profit.
This issue which was the second motion up for vote this week, was met with silence when Cliffe questioned if any councilman wanted to move the contract. As a result, Cliffe suggested that the board could instead vote on a motion to decline the contract, which was agreed for in unison. The board was thanked by appreciative residents for prioritizing the concerns of citizens over those of Modern Disposal.
Other topics of discussion:
•Tim Zuber, the town engineer, proposed that a Quasar Energy Group project to install hydrobeams needs a town hearing to secure a parcel of subdivision land. The motion was approved and the hearing will take place July 23 at 7 p.m., before the next town meeting.
•The board awarded the bid to purchase a dump body and hoist to Valley Fab and Equipment Inc. of Boston, N.Y., for $10,265.
•A motion to furnish businesses and commercial establishments with two 96-gallon recycling carts and permit businesses to purchase two more was reviewed. Cliffe clarified to audience members that the businesses would have to cover the cost for additional recycling carts (at a cost to be determined). The motion was passed.
•When a motion was proposed to renew insurance policies with Travelers, Selective and Hartford insurance companies at an annual cost of $147,274, insurance broker Judy Ponzi explained that she had reviewed the policy, and that she and the board had made some property valuation adjustments. Ponzi explained that the adjustments will not significantly affect town costs. The councilmen and supervisor agreed and the motion was passed.
•The board unanimously approved a motion to approve the lease agreement with Global Tower Partners for co-location on its tower, at no cost to the town.
•The board unanimously approved a policy to clarify the financial responsibility for repair to damaged subdivision signs. The policy states that if it can be determined that someone is responsible for the damage he assumes costs; if natural causes cause the damage, the town will assume the costs; and private sources will assume costs for other types of damages.
•The councilmen unanimously approved the resolution for the draft local waterfront revitalization program for Wheatfield. Cliffe explained that this does not "approve" the bill, but signifies the board "accepts it for review." The board and town engineer will send the necessary paperwork to appropriate state, federal and regional agencies. Town Attorney Robert O'Toole indicated that hearings will not occur until the fall.
•The Town Board discussed the core testing of asphalt in the community with the assistance of Highway Superintendent Art Kroening. An unofficial motion was created and the initial testing of asphalt cores will begin.
•Cliffe received notification from St. Johnsburg Volunteer Fire Co. about hosting the New York State Fire Convention in 2014. They needed the town's support as the convention will take place on land owned by the Town of Wheatfield. Councilman Gilbert Doucet emphasized that from his involvement with the event in the past, it is in the town's best economic interest to support the convention, stating: "I've been involved with the firemen's convention (and witnessed the positive) economic impact. During events, all hotels will be booked and the streets will be incredibly busy. I can't see why, with its (positive) economic impact, we wouldn't want to see the firemen's convention." Councilman Kenneth Retzlaff agreed and seconded the motion, and the motion was then unanimously passed.