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JULY 08 - JULY 16, 2014

Complicated New Garbage Ordinance To Penalize Landlords, Small Business

By Mike Hudson

July 08, 2014

DPW Director David Kinney will have new discretion in enforcing the Dyster-Owens Disposal Ordinance or Do-Do.

The 37-page document establishing the rules and regulations for the city's new garbage collection system is an Orwellian document filled with labyrinthine twists and turns, dumbfounding legalese language and an appallingly petty list of minor infractions and their threatened consequences.

It is the work of Mayor Paul Dyster and City Administrator Donna Owens, in conjunction with the city legal department, and stands as a testament to the sort of imperious disdain for city residents, property owners and businesses that have many in Niagara Falls openly calling for Owens' resignation or dismissal.

Why they want only Owens' head when the entire plan was jointly conceived with Dyster who of course as her boss approved it, is hard to understand.

The document, which may be called the Dyster - Owens Disposal Ordinance (or 'Do-Do') starts off by codifying the start date of the city's new program, August 1, less than a month away. It also sets into stone the backwards size of the refuse and recycling totes that will be used in Niagara Falls at 96 gallons for recycling and 64 gallons for refuse, exactly the opposite setup employed by every other community in the United States.

Some items commonly disposed of previously on trash collection day will no longer be handled by Modern Disposal Inc., the Lewiston based company the city has contract with to provide the service. These exemptions were not imposed by Modern but rather written into the new ordinance by the city, in an effort to save money.

Automobile tires, for example, my no longer be put out to the curb for disposal. Tires must be brought by the city resident seeking to get rid of them to the Department of Public works where, for a fee, they will be collected and disposed of, the new regulations state.

Yard trimmings, a bone of contention when the new regulations were announced last month, have been hastily written into the ordinance and will now be collected. They must be put into clear garbage bags and left alongside the city issued totes for collection.

Remarkably , the totes are reversed. The larger one (left) is for recycling and the smaller one (right) is for refuse. Time will tell how that will work out.

Those Niagara Falls residents who supplement their incomes or, in some cases, live off of the money they make collecting cans and bottles from city garbage cans and returning them for deposit will be put out of business under the new ordinance, which makes such activity illegal.

In keeping with a law that was crafted by someone with no clue about law enforcement, penalties, jurisdiction and other aspects of implementation of these new anti-can collecting regulations are not set forth.

Under the new law, property owners and not those actually living at the residence are responsible for complying with the ordinance. That means that, if a tenant refuses to separate recyclables from his or her regular garbage, it is the landlord who will be subject to fines and other penalties.

In one particularly poorly worded subsection of the new law, a mangled explanation is provided that would seem to give landlords an out.

"Notwithstanding the provisions above, a property owner may apply to the Director for approval of a waiver of primary responsibility for compliance with recycling laws, rules and regulations governing recycling, that the tenants have assumed responsibility for compliance with recycling laws, rules and regulations. This approval may be revoked by the Director in accordance with promulgated rules and regulations."

What this would seem to be saying is that landlords may somehow get themselves off the hook by getting tenants to agree to follow the new law but that, if the tenants fail to do so after initially agreeing, the landlord is left, once again, holding the bag.

Why a tenant would willingly accept legal responsibility for an obligation placed by law on his landlord, unless it were somehow imposed as a condition of rental, is uncertain. And the tenant's dedication to strict compliance with the city garbage ordinance might be questionable under the best of circumstances since, if there's a violation, the DPW director has merely to revoke the approval sought by the landlord in the first place should a violation occur.

This Catch 22 for landlords, many of whom live outside the city limits and have shown themselves to be unable of policing tenant activities in the realms of drug use, prostitution and other already illegal activities, might provide some comic relief for newspaper readers and writers who can chuckle at mounting fines and penalties being levied against addresses where far more serious law breaking activity has regularly occurred.

The age old practice of writing ones address on garbage totes to prevent pilfering by other, less responsible individuals who may have damaged or lost their totes is outlawed under the new ordinance, as is the disposal of dead animals.

It is uncertain who might want to put the decreased family dog or cat out with the morning garbage to begin with but, under the new legislation, the practice is illegal and a call must be placed to the Public Works Department to arrange for dead animal collection.

On Page 23, the new ordinance finally gets around to enforcement, granting the DPW director the right to issue appearance tickets like any cop on the beat. First violations of any part of the complicated new ordinance will result in a warning ticket, but subsequent violations are incrementally increased to fines of up to $250.

The owner of a three-unit apartment building housing tenants who are often unable to feed themselves without public assistance could find themselves facing thousands of dollars in fines should those tenants also be unable to understand the intricacies of the city's complicated new law.

Each day a violation occurs or is permitted to exist is ruled by the ordinance to constitute a separate offence, meaning that the fines could pile up quickly.

The ordinance provides for the civil collection of unpaid fines by the city Law Department after a period of 30 days, a process that will undoubtedly result in property liens and perhaps even constitute the straw that breaks the camel's back for owners who have been sitting on the fence about just abandoning their property, as have so many other Niagara Falls property owners before them.

Numerous calls from prominent businessmen and members of the general public for the resignation or dismissal of Owens for her role in the mishandling of the new ordinance, might make it likely that the city administrator's Niagara Falls career will be taken out with the trash soon.

Her lack of qualifications and poor people skills make her job hunting prospects questionable at best, and a hallmark of Dyster's administrative style has been to steadfastly refuse to admit a single mistake he has made during his years in office.





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