By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Department of Public Works employees came to the City of Tonawanda’s council meeting Tuesday to voice their opinions on the council’s potential move to privatizing garbage pickup.
The move has been tossed around for years and has been brought back up in recent months after a representative from Niagara County came to a meeting in June to discuss potential garbage savings.
With a number of DPW retirements coming next year, Mayor Ron Pilozzi thought it was an appropriate time to look into the move.
If the city did decide to hire a company to perform the job, no employees would be laid off, per the city’s contract with the union, which will be effective starting in 2013 for five years.
“They are fully protected,” Administrative Assistant Richard Planavsky said.
But both DPW workers, union representatives and residents told the council Tuesday that the city’s services won’t be matched by a private company.
City of Tonawanda Employees Association President David Penberthy spoke to the recent reduction of the sanitary workers — down a third since he has been there.
“We’ve reduced overtime, we’ve gone from three trucks to two,” he said.
Other representatives spoke to the workers’ ethic and extra work.
“The workforce is used at other times, if there is a major storm,” Chris Harszlak III said. “We also take the totes back for many elderly people to make it as easiest on them as possible. I know it’s about saving money, but these are intangibles you’re not going to be able to replace.”
Elizabeth Latacki, of Taylor Drive, echoed those statements.
“I love the services of the City of Tonawanda,” she said. “I’d rather pay more taxes than have them taken away. They are invested in the city.”
Councilmembers reminded the audience that no decisions regarding garbage pickup have been made.
“Just because we look at it doesn’t mean it is ever going to come to fruition,” Council President Carleton Zeisz said.
Councilman Tyler Kossow also suggested the city applying a private company’s strategies to become more efficient.
“We have been looking at how efficiently we do things,” Kossow said. “But what’s not to say the City of Tonawanda can’t copy their efficiencies?”
The council also discussed the status of the pavilion project at the body’s work session.
Mayor Ron Pilozzi said the furniture has been delivered and the kitchen equipment should be delivered by the end of the week.
Landscaping work around the structure still needs to be done, but will likely not be complete until spring.
The council also discussed how the building will run — who will clean, cater and work it during events.
Interim Director of Recreation Amanda Galas and Mayor Ron Pilozzi are working on a plan for the pavilion, which will be presented to the council.
Pilozzi did say he doesn’t wish to rent the structure out to a full-time managing company that would then rent it out to residents.
“I would like to start out the same way the Town of Tonawanda does it,” he said. “We can lease it out ourselves, and then we can stay in the game more.”Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150