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In Orleans, county saves taxpayers big bucks with garbage collection

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 August 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Employees at Modern Disposal Service pick up trash last week in Albion.

ALBION – I didn’t realize how good we had it in Orleans County until I moved away about 15 years ago.

In Orleans, I never had to worry about garbage collection. As a village of Albion resident, on the east side of Main Street, the garbage trucks came every Tuesday. Back then, I think we were paying about $140 a year for garbage pick-up. The county negotiated with a trash company and the fee was added to the county tax bill on an annual basis.

About 15 years ago I moved to the village of Bergen where residents had to pay for garbage per bag. I forget what it was: 50 cents to $1 per bag. Village and town residents had different-colored bags. It was a little cheaper if you used regular trash bags and drove the garbage to a transfer station every Saturday. It was far money and a much bigger hassle than the deal in Orleans County.

After about a year in Bergen, I moved to North Chili for three years, beginning about 14 years ago. There, residents had to fend for themselves for their garbage collection. I remember contacting different trash haulers and the prices ranged from $23 to $30 a month (if memory serves me correct). That’s about two to 2.5 times the cost in Orleans County.

North Chili residents used several different haulers, and it seemed everyday was someone’s garbage day. We had garbage trucks rumbling through the neighborhood on a daily basis, making stops for trash.

I moved back to Albion about 11 years ago, this time with deep gratitude for the low-cost garbage collection.

The cost has risen to $185 a year per family, which is still a great bargain. When it was $140 a year, gas prices were under $2 a gallon.

The county started negotiating the garbage service for residents about 25 years ago. That move has likely saved each resident at least $100 a year. Long-time residents have saved thousands of dollars over the years because the county bids out the service on behalf of residents.

“We have the buying power of 42,000 residents,” said Chuck Nesbitt, the county’s chief administrative officer. “The sole purpose of us doing this is to save people money.”

The county tends to bid this out in five-year contracts with an option for Orleans to rebid the contract annually. Orleans generally renews it each year.

Modern Disposal Service in Niagara County is the current provider and I think they do an excellent job. Nesbitt said the company has made “a significant investment in staff and vehicles” to serve county residents.

Modern Disposal has invested in trucks and employees to serve Orleans County residents.

If Orleans decided to stop working out the garbage deals and left each resident or municipality to line up trash services, Nesbitt said the costs would go up significantly, especially for the rural residents.

“The people in the country would suffer,” Nesbitt said. “They would pay at least twice the current cost. Grouping everyone together has helped drive down the costs. It benefits the entire county.”

For $185 a year, each household can dispose of an average of six garbage bags a week, plus recycling. Modern will also take a refrigerator, couch or another “white good” once a month.

Residents with complaints about a missed pick up usually call the county offices, which then relay the concern to the garbage company. Nesbitt said his office has some added work because the county is involved in the garbage contract.

He and his predecessor, Stan Dudek, have been asked by other counties and municipalities about the Orleans approach to trash collection. Nesbitt and Dudek have shared with other counties how a county-wide system can save residents a lot of money. But few counties have ever followed the example.

“They don’t want the phone calls,” Nesbitt said. “They don’t think they should be involved in the garbage business.”

This grateful resident wants to thank the county officials for the extra effort in managing this program.