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Fight over garbage user fee in Niagara Falls continues

Vote tabled at public hearing
Posted at 11:51 PM, Sep 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 23:53:58-04

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — The fight over a proposed garbage user fee in Niagara Falls will officially continue after the council voted to table to issue. A public hearing held Wednesday night saw more than a dozen voice their opinions both for and against the fee in front of a packed house at Niagara Falls City Hall.

"Without it--25 police officers and 20 firefighters will hit the streets. That's 45 families impacted...our city cannot afford to cut public safety," Noah Masur, Vice President of the Firefighters Association Local 714, said.

"A $250 fee hat will never leave us, it will only keep going up, so yes we do protest that," another neighbor said at the hearing. The vote tabled after some council members felt they needed to see the city's budget. A financial blueprint that's not set to be released until next week.

"When I see the number, I can make an informed decision. Anything before that is not an informed decision and I cannot make that," Niagara Falls Council Member Kenny Tompkins (R) said.

Chairman Andrew Touma (D) said the $250 annual fee will cover the $4-5 million deficit in the city's budget. In the past, Touma said day-to-day services were covered by casino revenues, but that money now needs to be used to grow the city.

"At this point in time, we have to make greater decisions, tougher decisions," Touma said. He and other council members said without the fee--taxes will increase, services will have to be cut or even both.

"This has to stop coming on the taxpayers back," Terri Kline said. She organized a protest ahead of the meeting today. Kline continued, "Everyone needs to give, we need to work together."

Those who support the fee, including first responders, said the fee will ultimately save lives at the end of the day.

"The creation of a garbage user fee will cost residents $0.65 a day, in our opinion, is a small price to pay to make sure that the city is safe and we go home to our families at night," Jason Cafarella, President of Niagara Falls Fire Officers Local 3359, said.

The budget, which still can include the garbage fee, is set to be presented on Tuesday by the mayor. The council has until December first to approve or reject it.