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Kabuki and the recycling program

Published 6:35 pm Wednesday, March 3, 2010

To the editor:

Recycling is an important environmental city service. Thus, participation in the proposed curbside collection program should be encouraged. Unfortunately, the recommended $12 monthly fee seems unfair, unreasonable and most of all disingenuous, because this service should be free.

Consider this: As a member of the Southeastern Public Service Authority and per the “host city” agreement, Suffolk can deliver all its trash and garbage to SPSA — a state-licensed landfill — free of charge. Safe trash disposal is a city-mandated core service, like schools, police and fire. The city can’t dump trash and garbage into the streets, yards and open fields — it must be disposed of in a state-regulated landfill.

What are the financial benefits to Suffolk? Enormous!

Today, SPSA charges its members $170 for every ton of trash dumped on the landfill. For instance, in June 2009, Suffolk delivered about 4,600 tons of municipal waste to the landfill. At $170 per ton, that equals a savings of $782,000 — for one month only!

Let me hasten to add that this financial benefit will not continue into perpetuity. The SPSA agreement expires in 2018 or sooner. But trash disposal and related costs for Suffolk will continue forever.

In view of these SPSA windfall savings, I believe the proposed curbside recycling should be provided for free.

The unexplained fuzzy method of payments comes across as messy. Worse still, remember the bulk trash fee plan? Let us not repeat that blunder.

In conclusion, I must ask these questions:

How was the $8-million-per-year windfall that came from not having to pay for a mandated service used?

Was the $8 million used to balance the budget, declare an end-of-year surplus, pay employee end-of-year bonuses, fund city councilmen’s pet projects or reduce tax rates?

Is there a line item in the budget referencing these $8 million funds? I can’t find it.

How did our auditors handle this “free service”?

How about the New York bond ratings agencies? Do they know about this $8-million windfall?

During several appearances before City Council, I told the mayor and council that were was too much kabuki around City Hall. The mayor shot back, “There’s no kabuki here!”

You decide.