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Porter Board hears resident concerns over garbage services

Fri, Sep 18th 2020 12:25 pm

Staff Reports

Residents’ confusion and frustrations over refuse pickups in the Town of Porter continued at Monday evening’s regular Town Board meeting.

At issue are recent announced changes in the town’s garbage collections service for residents with Modern Disposal. The town and Modern reached an agreement over past months that prompted a variety of changes. This includes new, larger 95-gallon trash totes delivered to the town’s 1,973 residences, which now provide for auto-loading trash pickups by newly designed Modern trucks, plus changes covering larger trash needs as well a bulk pickups.

This is latest in a series of changes from the town’s residential services contract with Modern, agreed to by the two parties over the past year. As a result, the town now assigns a $203 annual garbage fee to property owners of single-family, double- and triple-family residences throughout Porter. Previously, all residential trash services were provided to residents at no charge, with all service costs to Modern covered under the town’s annual budget.

Modern has attempted to explain the various trash pickup changes through public information releases that continue, including a detailed “Trash Talk” mailer sent to all residences in the town. (See detailed articles from the Aug. 3 and Sept. 4 Tribune/Sentinel issues at www.wnypapers.com).

However, residents have said information resulted in more questions and frustrations over the new collections arrangement. Many told Supervisor John “Duffy” Johnston and the Town Board on Monday they now view it as a decline in Modern’s weekly garbage pickup and bulk trash services.

“This was a surprise to the community – the garbage change to these cans and the rules and regulations,” resident Jennifer Summerfield said. She questioned the change made by the town and raised the issue of a lack of community input. “The town did not tell us anything and today we get a mailer from Modern: ‘Here’s the change.’ ”

The residents’ claim of a lack of communication by the town was disputed by Johnston and board members, who said they repeatedly announced scheduled public discussion sessions on the proposed service changes, with very little if any response or interest from residents at Town Board meetings held on the matter.

Summerfield continued, “We want to find out more about that (the new Modern service contract). What was the decision-making and cost analysis of that, because the service that we’re receiving is greatly reduced. The cost has gone up and service has declined.

“We’re really unhappy on what the board decided on this.”

One unnamed resident told the board, “The devil’s in the details, and these details do not meet our needs.”

In response, Johnston said the town’s discussions with Modern began in October 2019. Prior to that time, “Modern allowed the town to work two years without a contract, which had cost Modern $175,000 … working without contracts until we could figure it out.”

He said Porter provided four community notifications to residents via news announcements and on its website for scheduled meetings “to voice your concerns” on the town’s garbage services contact discussions. Johnston also explained the town posted requests for proposals inviting bids from all Buffalo-Niagara area trash providers – Modern, Waste Management, Pinto, Republic, etc. Modern was the only company that responded.

Discussing the town’s handling of its contract negotiations with Modern, Johnston continued, “We went through everything; we looked at smaller totes” for residents. He said the town determined consideration wasn’t deemed practical, as residents could move and the trash needs at a certain address might change.

Johnston also said a number of Niagara County communities are finding themselves in a similar trash services predicament as Porter, with limited trash service options. He indicated that reflected continuing changes in the local and national garbage and recycling services industry market.

“The Town of Porter is not the only one. They (Modern) put out a right for proposals out (for similar trash pick up services). It’s called a consortium. It’s Newfane, Pendleton, Cambria, Middleport, Summerset and Barker (that are signing up). All are going the same one-cart system, doing the exact same thing” as Porter, Johnston said.

He noted the Town of Lewiston does not operate in the same fashion, because it has a host community agreement with Modern.

Johnston said Porter and Modern are striving to accommodate residents’ trash needs, with options for larger trash pick-ups (i.e. “additional capacity tags” offered by the town, and extra trash totes available to residents for purchase (with an added fee charged). Also, the town’s offering of two “dump permits” issued yearly to residents allowing for bulk trash drop-offs on the first Saturday of each month at the Modern landfill in Lewiston, with the town handling all related costs.

Throughout the public comments session, the town repeatedly attempted to address concerns.

On the matter of cost, Town Attorney Mike Dowd explained, “For many years, residents in the Town of Porter enjoyed no garbage fees. … When the contract expired with Modern Disposal, we put out an RFP. We wanted other people to participate; we wanted to get as many proposals as we could. We got one.

“In that quote, that’s what they (Modern) offered, and the board had to make a decision. Because now we have to pay; now you’re paying out of your pocket because there is a district charge for garbage. If what you wanted to have done ... by Modern Disposal (additional trash services) … the cost of it would have been way astronomical” for the town.

“The board is charged in trying to do the best we can with what we have. Modern brought an offer and we did have some discussions with them, about these things in particular,” Dowd said.

In response, he said Modern emphasized it is available to assist with any particular need for residents, should that need arise. “That driver will assist them.”

“So we’re doing everything we can,” Dowd said. “But that’s really it. You’re left with one person (Modern) putting in a response. … So we’re going to do what we can, to help going forward. But decisions had to be made.”

The town closed by announcing the new Modern trash services program would take effect on Oct. 1. For more information, residents are advised to consult the “Trash Talk” mailer, contact Porter Town Hall at 716-745-3730, Modern at 800-330-7107, or visit Modern’s website at www.ModernCorporation.com.

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