Garbage Changeover Set

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ reported.

Modern Disposal will begin refuse pickup in the city Oct. 10, officials confirmed Monday.

Delivery of 17,000 refuse and recycling carts to all residential and some commercial properties will start next week, Dawn Timm, the city’s refuse and recycling adviser, said. Cascade Engineering is bringing the carts to Lockport in nine tractor trailers on Friday; GM Components is allowing its west plant to be used as an assembly area where wheels and lids will be installed on the carts. From there, finished carts will be delivered to city homes and businesses Monday pickup route first, then Tuesday route and so on.

That’ll take an expected 10 to 12 days, and by the time the Friday-route carts are delivered, Modern will already be at work picking up people’s refuse and recyclables....
 I am very curious to see how much of my trash will be recycle related. I also look forward to replacing my aging cans which I have been holding off on replacing in anticipation of the new system.Two more weeks left to "clean house".


Seeking Union Concessions

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ reported that Mayor Tucker will be seeking some union concessions as the budget process moves forward:

Mayor Mike Tucker’s administration will approach all five city employee unions asking for concessions in health care benefits in order to stave off a double-digit tax rate increase, layoffs or both.

After talking with department heads about their 2012 budget requests the past few weeks, members of the Common Council on Wednesday had their first look at hard numbers — total expenses, income and impact on the tax rate if every department gets what it says it needs to function.

The numbers weren’t pretty.

Even after revaluation, which raised citywide taxable property value to $714 million from $635 million, the preliminary general budget drives a gag-inducing 17 percent increase in the city tax rate...
Notable is that the rate increase would have been higher with out the increase in valuation of the city. Not that it really means much. When it comes down to it, the budget $$ value is the budget $$ value and  we all have to pay into it.

The biggest cost are employees and benefits. Cutting all the things around them will cost us more than the small savings we get. Jack Smith is quoted with a sentiment I have shared:
Jack Smith, 2nd Ward alderman, doesn’t believe a zero increase is possible, or wise. Layoffs will put the city on a “slippery slope” to reducing services, he said, especially if they’re in departments whose services are “felt” daily: streets, forestry and building inspection, for example.
The biggest issue is medical benefits. As nice as the 2% cap is, it is no help when medical premiums are increasing in the double digits.
...Average pay raises of 3 to 4.5 percent for nearly all employees are not subject to change, as they were given in writing through 2012 in five union contracts. Fringe benefits — from vacation time, longevity payments and clothing allowances to city-paid health insurance, disability, Social Security and state pension contributions — aren’t much subject to change either, as they’re negotiated with the unions or required by the state.

One of the biggest expected line item increases in the 2012 budget is in medical spending.

In the general fund, which covers all departments except water and sewer, Budget Director Dick Mullaney is penciling in a 15 percent/$600,000 increase, to $4.7 million for insurance for all workers and over 100 retirees. When water and sewer workers and retirees are included, the health tab could rise to $5.9 million.

Fifteen percent over this year’s tab is a ballpark figure only, as Community Blue hasn’t confirmed its 2012 rates to the city yet, Mullaney said...
We as a city need a plan to get investment going again. Otherwise we will always be facing tax rate increases as the budget grows and we are left with nothing new to pay into it. The weight comes unbearable for those who remain and the downward inertia continues. No different than the salary stagnation that many residents may be feeling themselves.


Proposed Borrowing

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported on the borowing plan submitted to the council for discussion:

City Treasurer Michael E. White recommended a nearly $7 million program of borrowing to the Common Council last week and gave the aldermen two weeks to decide how much of it they want to carry out

“The city hasn’t borrowed in the last four years. A lot of needs have reared their ugly heads since then,” White said. “I hate to borrow money, I really do, but with our cash flow situation, we need to do it.”
With interest rates at historic lows and the city’s credit rating at historic highs—A2 from Moody’s Investors Service, A-minus from Standard and Poor’s — the treasurer, whose City Hall nickname is “Dr. No,” says now is the time to pull the trigger
Some of the expenditures in the package already have been made and need to be paid off. Examples include the city’s new fire truck, about half of which was paid for by a federal grant. But $240,000 of the cost is the city’s responsibility.

White also said the city needs to borrow $860,000 to pay for the 17,000 garbage and recycling totes to be distributed throughout Lockport next month.

The city also faces a $440,000 tab for the repair of a sinkhole that kept South Transit Street closed for three weeks this spring. The project involved the replacement of sewer and water mains.

A building to house emergency generators, installed at the water filtration plant in 2008 and 2009, also needs to be paid off, to the tune of $465,000....


Too Close to Call

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ are reporting that the Tucker/Green primary will come down to absentee ballots and that Pilot defeated Jack Smith. The surprises have me wondering if I am still sleeping. 

Who’ll be Michael Pillot’s Republican opponent in the mayor’s race?

It’s up in the air after an unexpectedly strong primary election showing by Mayor Mike Tucker’s GOP opponent, former alderwoman Phyllis Green....
It goes to show how important it is to get out and vote.
...Green predicted “the lawyers are gonna get involved” in the GOP primary, given the closeness of the live vote.

“I have no regrets. I’m very proud of the campaign we ran. We worked very hard ... and gave people the opportunity to have their say, have somebody else to vote for,” she said. “I think the mayor thought he’d get a free ride (from Republicans) — and he didn’t.”
I wonder if many people felt their candidate would move on? Seeing that Pacseri was also defeated, is garbage fear mongering that powerful? We haven't even used the system yet.


"Most Controversial Election"

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported on the candidates and issues in the City of Lockport in advance of tomorrow's primaries. I took note of the opening paragraph:

In an election year that’s shaping up as more controversial than any the city has seen in a long time, voters in both major parties and three minor parties will head for the polls Tuesday to choose candidates for mayor....
Note that is does not say "The most insightful", "The most forward thinking", The Biggest Breath of Fresh Air" etc. Even the "controversies" are overly contrived to try to differentiate candidates who may otherwise be undifferentiated.

To me the best candidate would be able to sell him/herself on their ideas alone with no need to mention what the other is doing wrong. There would be no need to if new, well-researched, proven ideas were being provided. If nothing else, we would actually have ideas to debate the merits of.


Term Limits Resurrected

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ has reported that Chapman has resurrected his Term Limit quest prior to leaving city office at the end of this year.

An attempt by 4th Ward Alderman Andy Chapman to force a Common Council vote on his old term-limits proposal failed Wednesday.

The proposal, tabled by the Council in February 2010, would limit the mayor to serving two consecutive terms of office and aldermen to three consecutive terms. Officers would be allowed to run for the jobs again, but only after a full term out of office.
I still feel the same way as when this was first brought up. In the city we get to vote on all alderman every two years. There is ample opportunity to vote in new people. It is our responsibility to try to put the right people in office. Based on a lot of the commenting on this blog, I'd be surprised that term limits would make mush difference based on what people's main concerns are about candidates.

I do see some benefits for higher levels of office (state) where seniority plays a large role and certain members can gain a stronghold that affects the whole state whereas the whole state has no opportunity to get rid of them. It is possible (probable?) that party lines would still hold back any type of change brought out by plugging in any new "individuals".

Here is the post from 2010. Rocketboy where have you gone?


Garbage Prices

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ are reporting that the garbage prices are now set:

...If that goes as planned, Monday, Oct. 17, will be the first day for the privatized garbage system to be operated by Modern Disposal. All properties will receive a recycling tote. Most will be 64 gallons, although 1,500 96-gallon recycling bins are being ordered, Timm said.The annual price of a single 35- gallon tote will be $132.50. The user fee for one 64-gallon tote is $162, and the tab for a 96-gallon tote is $185.50...
...Timm said the prices will not be altered for at least the first three years. City Treasurer Michael E. White said the user fees will be billed semiannually, starting in 2012, with half due each May and the other half due in October...
 As for what we owe for this year's city collection up to that point:
...The city charge isn’t final yet, but it will be less than $150 per property, White said. Property owners will have 60 days to pay it without a late penalty...
It is nice to also see some residents doing some leg work:
...Without naming names, Sheila Tracy of Grosvenor Street took on Democratic mayoral candidate Mike Pillot and others who’ve complained the Modern variable-cart program is too complicated, convoluted and/or unfair. Pillot in particular has suggested the contract between Modern and the city has the latter “working for” the former, as the city is taking on billing duties.

Tracy said she inquired in the towns of Lockport, Pendleton and Newfane, which all have private hauling and curbside recycling but no cart requirement, and learned: The towns, not the haulers, bill every property for refuse service; and none of them cuts “snowbirds” a fee break for the months they’re not here....
It would be nice if those doing the critiquing would have done this research first. It is possible that they could have and just held on to the information.

I got around 30 bags to the curb last in an effort to "spring clean" before the totes come. It's amazing how much junk I've held on to. Hopefully I can get to the garage in the next couple weeks.


Mayoral Debate 1

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported on last nights debate at city hall between Smith, Pilot, and Green.

The need for retrenchment in city government was the overriding theme of a candidates’ forum Thursday night in City Hall, featuring the three challengers for the mayor’s job.

There were no gaudy promises from Republican hopeful Phyllis J. Green or Democrats Jack L. Smith Jr. and Michael J. Pillot.
Instead, the message was that Lockport cannot afford big programs anymore and needs to focus on efficiency and necessities...
 A couple points here based on what was noted in the article:
  1. Nice to see someone finally using the word plan along with acknowledging that you can not just keep cutting taxes to get somewhere. I would still prefer to see actual plans.
  2. As for the "big programs", what exactly are they? I don't notice to many luxuries abounding around here. We can't even keep our street trees intact.
  3. "Flight of Five" is mostly historic preservation money, grants etc. Not sure why it is referred to as a major expense to the city. I do also believe we hold some responsibility to see that the most is made from one of the great engineering feats of the early 19th century that is in our keep.
  4. The concert series does come directly from taxes though it is half of one percent of the budget. Save $12.50 per property to remove the life out of DT during the summer? And please don't move them out of DT as you remove any direct benefits to businesses and advertizing of Lockport.You might as well just do away with them then.
  5. One person in the assessor office would have taken years to reassess all 10,000 properties in the city. By time they were done the first ones they did would have already been out of date. $170,000 for "temp hires" was a deal (~$17/property).
  6. Wish I had a better grasp on why Pilot is 100% opposed to the new trash system. 100%, really?
I'm a little mad at myself that I missed this. I will have to make sure I catch the radio on of which Tucker is now supposed to participate. and to reiterate: A plan in writing please....from anyone.