Schenectady council considers proposal to acquire ad-supported garbage bins

Inset: Provided image of proposed garbage cans. Background: Gazette photo of Schenectady City Hall.

Inset: Provided image of proposed garbage cans. Background: Gazette photo of Schenectady City Hall.

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SCHENECTADY — A proposal for an outside vendor to supply the city with 40 cost-free garbage bins is currently in front of the City Council, with the pace of adopting the program a point of contention during the council’s committee meeting on Monday evening.

The proposal from Creative Outdoor would see the company outfit the city with a host of new three-stream garbage and recycling bins that double as street-level advertisements for local businesses.

The company and city would then split the revenue from local shops advertising on the full-color photo panels on the bins, with Schenectady expected to receive approximately $10,000 to $15,000 in revenue per year from ad sales from the garbage bins.

While Jim Diamond of Creative Outdoor presented the proposal to the council at a committee meeting on Feb. 6, the proposal has not received a full council vote.

During the council’s City Development and Planning Committee meeting, Council President Marion Porterfield noted that she had spoken with union leadership at the Waste Collection Department, who have a meeting scheduled with Mayor Gary McCarthy for later this week to learn more about the potential deal with Creative Outdoor.

“They said they wanted to have a discussion about how this impacts collection,” she said. “There was someone in the city who was doing union work and actually filed a grievance and won that grievance. Not related to this, but related to something separate. So they brought that up and said if this is going to be about collecting garbage they at least want to know what it’s going to be about before we move forward with it.”

Council member John Polimeni, who brought the Creative Outdoor proposal to the council, said the initiative should not result in extra labor for waste collectors.

“It’s basically replacing cans that they’re already removing garbage from,” Polimeni replied. “So it’s not creating additional work for them, it’s basically a swap out.”

Council Members John Mootooveren and Damonni Farley noted during the meeting that while they support the program, they would like to hear the results of the mayor’s meeting with the union before approving a measure to allow McCarthy to sign a deal with Creative Outdoor.

The council opted on Monday to wait until the union meets with the mayor until moving forward with the proposal.

“All of us will support this idea, but I came to the table with that very same concern about the union,” Mootooveren said during the meeting. “I think we should give them the opportunity to discuss this with the mayor to come to some sort of agreement and let’s move forward after that.”

Porterfield noted during the meeting that the city would still pay for tipping fees for the garbage collection, adding that there could be more garbage collected as a result of the added cans.

“We’re paying for it one way or another,” McCarthy replied. “I don’t understand how you think there’s going to be more garbage. Garbage is sometimes not where we want it, but I don’t anticipate the amount of garbage increasing.”

McCarthy urged the council to pass the proposal out of committee during the meeting and to send it to the full council for a vote, noting that a recent proposal to change the pickup schedule for large-scale waste items known as white goods took several months to make its way through the council.

“I would tell you to move it forward tonight, this is really embarrassing,” McCarthy said during the meeting. “Mr. Polimeni brought this up and Ms. Porterfield doesn’t like him. We maneuver around all these minor things and this is like with white goods, where we had one white good picked up in six months and it took 120 days to move that through. It’s really an embarrassment. If you want me to meet with the union, I’ll meet with the union. But the position with the administration is not going to change. The outcome is not going to change and you’re really just missing an opportunity to move this forward in a timely manner.”

“You made a statement that I don’t like Mr. Polimeni and that’s incorrect,” Porterfield replied.

The mayor dismissed concerns about a potential union grievance down the road holding up the program.

“There are 600 employees and we have grievances here on an ongoing basis,” he told the council. “To take this and say one grievance should shift this policy is just foolish. You don’t understand the mechanics of the day-to-day operations of the city.”

Polimeni told the council that Creative Outdoor would include language in a prospective contract with the city that would give McCarthy and the city council final approval over the placement of the new bins.

In September, the council unveiled the It Starts With Me anti-litter program, which aims to reduce littering in the city by 50% in the next five years.

Council Member Carmel Patrick said she is in full support of the Creative Outdoor program.

“I don’t anticipate anything with the union and I think the mayor was pretty clear that we’re going to be moving forward with this,” she said following the meeting. “Something along those lines were also included in the It Starts with Me program, which the council approved. That’s in the plan.”

Polimeni said the timeline for getting the cans out on city streets will depend upon the contract negotiations between the city and the vendor.

Polimeni said following the meeting that he was frustrated that the proposal had not been passed out of committee on Monday evening.
“It’s just a lack of leadership,” he said. “Quite frankly, we need garbage cans. We have a litter problem. If we put the cans out, hopefully people start using them. We’re replacing old, dilapidated cans that the city owns. We’re going to get paid for it, so there’s really no downside here. It’s part of the litter program, there’s a major effort to control that and this is part of that. It’s by no means a silver bullet, but we have to do something.”

Categories: News, News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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