Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County, Inc.

February 29, 2000

Dear Mayor Griffin and Common Council Members,

The Directors of Concerned Citizens request you consider these comments as the City contemplates privatizing garbage service.

You should look hard before abandoning public ownership of the garbage service. Privatization is being pushed by a small number of aggressive waste companies with the result that recyclables get landfilled. Host communities for landfills suffer and increasing pressure is created to find new host communities. If we want to deflect the first line of criticism directed at us when we fight new commercial landfill siting, that NIMBY is mere selfishness, we should be mindful of the effects of our local decisions on others.

As an aggressive new entry into the New York market, Casella is one of the culprits. If you don't know this already, you can review the sketch of Casella's activities in New York and New England on Concerned Citizens web site, at:

Casella does not (and elsewhere will not) act any differently than IWS in Farmersville.

We don't know the solution to the garbage budget deficit problem in Olean. We'd like to think if the issue were put to the voters--whether they want to hand over a historically public service to an aggressive private company without promise that fees will not go higher year after year or, instead, pay more now (cost-shifting, or $2 per 30 gallon ticket) and keep control over the waste stream (even reduce it) and experience the reward of self-control and local public control--the voters would vote against privatization, and would hold the elected officials who gave them that choice in higher esteem.

We do believe, however, that your problem is part of a much larger issue regarding who controls garbage. If garbage comes more and more under private control, the waste stream will only grow. If garbage remains firmly in public hands, state and local public officials will retain the option of cooperating to craft a policy for its responsible and cost-effective management. If you give up public ownership of the waste stream there will be no incentive to reduce it, just the opposite. Over the long term, the commercial interest will make costs to the public rise.

We do not oppose private contracts. We're not even against landfills. But waste facilities should be publicly owned, giving the public the power to insist on environmental protections and waste management policies that benefit the public health first, and cost should be second.

Glen Chambers, President, for the Board of Directors