Mayor, councilor spar over stalemate on Pittsfield waste management

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PITTSFIELD — A social media spat between city leaders shed light over the weekend on what one commenter called "a stalemate" surrounding the city's solid waste reform.

Ward 6 Councilor John Krol went to Facebook to post that Mayor Linda Tyer "has not picked up the ball" on proposing another solid waste program after the demise of her plan to move Pittsfield to a tote-based trash pickup system. But in response, the mayor said the ball isn't entirely in her court.

During a private meeting nearly two years ago, she said she promised Krol city resources to explore the concept of a partial pay-as-you-throw bag program.

"And what have you done since then?" she wrote in a Facebook post Saturday. "Nothing except blame and complain."

The online argument lands as Tyer runs for reelection and as city leaders continue to weigh the path forward for the city's waste management plan — a redrafted ordinance awaits review by the city's Resource Recovery Commission.

The legislation that councilors worked on for about a year would set new volume limits on weekly curbside pickup. But the proposed changes come without any implementation plan, and that point hasn't gone unnoticed.

Ward 3 Councilor Nick Caccamo, who spearheaded the solid waste overhaul efforts as part of the Ordinances and Rules Committee, said the ordinance as written is "not good governance." He opposed moving the measure out of committee before councilors discuss a rollout plan.

He said he doesn't see a light at the end of the tunnel. Instead, he noted that city leaders favor different approaches.

"I don't know where that common ground is or will be," he said.

After nearly two years without consensus, Caccamo doubts a breakthrough is near. "I think we need to let some time pass, let the elections play out."

The issue

Both Tyer's toter system and the bag program that Krol informally proposes are versions of a partial pay-as-you-throw program, which shifts trash pickup costs to residents after a certain agreed-upon volume limit. Councilors heard a presentation last year from a company called Waste Zero, which manufactures color-coded trash bags and sells them to communities that use them, taking on the program rollout for free.

The city would distribute "at cost" coupons for the bags, Steve Lisauskas, a vice president of Waste Zero, told councilors at the time. The city could provide residents annually with 52 coupons to cover the cost of 52 bags of 45-gallon size — or 104 coupons for 23-gallon bags — and when residents run out of coupons, they would purchase their own.

"I am very skeptical about a bag plan," Tyer told The Eagle Monday. "I am concerned about passing added costs onto residents."

Her skepticism goes beyond cost, she said.

"I'm concerned about the cleanliness of our city and the public health issues that arise when garbage isn't placed in a container."

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Still, she said, "my mind could be changed." If councilors want to see another program implemented, she said to "propose one — a comprehensive, detailed proposal that can be explained to this community, that this community can embrace."

Different strokes

Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo, a mayoral challenger and a member of the council's Ordinances and Rules Committee, said she thinks the revised ordinance is a good start and that it's possible a pay-as-you-throw program could be folded into it.

"That's something that we can look at," she said.

Mazzeo said it felt to her that Tyer wasn't willing to move forward with a uniform program that wasn't tote-based.

"There are so many conversations that could be had, but it seemed like the mayor didn't want to go forward with anything other than the toter plan," she said.

Krol said that sentiment is what prevented him from exploring other pay-as-you-throw options.

"The council cannot initiate a contract," he said. "Whatever transpires would have to have the buy-in from the mayor's office."

The Saturday argument played out on a Facebook thread below an opinion piece that ran in The Eagle. The piece knocked public officials on all sides for failing to act on the solid waste issue.

Krol told Tyer in the comments that without the support of her allies on the City Council, an alternative proposal won't fly.

"The ball is in your court," he said, offering a meeting.

Tyer said Krol has to go beyond convincing her council allies that a bag plan is right for Pittsfield. "You have to convince their constituents," she said.

Councilor at Large Pete White also chimed in.

"John, this is not about allies or opponents," he wrote in a post. "It's about a plan that works for the people of Pittsfield."

One commenter in the thread said that the officials' comments offered clarity in what she described as "an obvious stalemate."

"Citizens do not like this kind of acrimonious politics," she said. "Pete's approach is what we want to see. You all need to meet and figure this out."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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