Trash companies be warned. This is County Waste territory.
Michael Russo, a driver of a Russo Sanitation truck, was the first to face the consequences of violating the single-hauler law in the town of New Paltz, which rules that only County Waste can provide residential trash pickup.
On Monday, March 25, Officer Ronald Stroh pulled over Michael outside a four-family home at 137 South Ohioville Rd.
“My brother asked the officer several questions and the officer would not answer any of his questions,” said Joe Russo, owner of Russo Sanitation. “Eventually the cop said, ‘you guys were warned about this.’”
Stroh proceeded to search, handcuff and place Michael in the back of the police car.
“I didn’t think it was right that he was embarrassed that way, anybody passing by would think that he was being arrested and taken to jail. Not to mention that also wouldn’t look good for the company in general,” Joe said.
Michael was warned that if he was caught servicing residential locations again, he would be arrested and the truck would be impounded.
“When I called to question and to complain, I said to them being that this is not a felony or a misdemeanor, I could not see why it was necessary that he be treated as if he was a criminal,” Joe said.
Since June 2018, County Waste has been the only permitted hauler in both the Town and Village of New Paltz under a five-year contract, which was spearheaded by Village of New Paltz Trustee Dennis Young.
According to Young, more than half the country has some sort of single-hauler law in their community. The idea behind this law is to lower the number of garbage trucks on the road, thus reducing the amount of carbon emissions, the amount of traffic and the impact on the tax payers’ roads.
Despite these apparent benefits and the pragmatics behind the contract, two weeks ago an active community member named Mary Ann Tozzi posted a petition to repeal the single-hauler law, gaining over 100 signatures from New Paltz residents. Tozzi states that it “opens the door for a variety of any other services the Town or Village deem ‘for the greater good.’”
Even though residents are not legally required to sign up for County Waste’s services and outside garbage haulers may still service commercial residences, those who oppose the single-hauler law strongly believe it violates freedom of choice and attempts to create a monopoly over trash services.
“We have gone out of our way to try and negotiate with the haulers,” Young said. “Waste Management, a $30 million company, left our community willingly after multiple notifications and negotiations. I do not believe they would have backed down from our little Village if the single hauler law was an ‘illegal government overreach.’”
Young called out to all haulers on Dec. 12, 2018 to notify them that New Paltz police will begin enforcing this law. Lieutenant Robert Lucchesi reached out to haulers twice in February 2018 alerting them of the upcoming enforcement and clarifying that haulers cannot collect roadside containers from residences, even if the hauler considers it to be a commercial account. County Waste also mailed an announcement flyer to every house that has been impacted by the change.
“We really went out of our way because we understand that it’s the drivers who are impacted and receive the tickets, not necessarily management who’s making the decisions,” Young said. “We didn’t want residents to have any service interruptions, but at a certain point we have to begin enforcing our law.”
Yet the interaction between Michael and the police seemed to only add fuel to the angered community members’ existing fire.
“I know that some people I’ve talked to didn’t really ‘care’ UNTIL the driver was arrested,” Tozzi said. “They really saw that extent as an overreach and they did not appreciate the police being ‘used’ to support something they see as political and not environmental.”
The ticketing and handcuffing of Michael highlighted a discrepancy in the definition of residential versus commercial homes.
“[Michael] was picking up at a four-family home, a landlord owns the house and there is a tax return filed yearly for the income he earns from it. As far as I’m concerned, that makes it undoubtedly commercial,” Joe said. “There are still other companies with cans outside of multi-family homes being serviced and that’s one reason why I will fight a fine.”
Despite the “gray area” behind deciphering a commercial location from a residential one, Young stays firm in his stance that “if somebody has dumpsters at a residential area then that’s not included, but if they have a rolling container at a residential location, then that is included.”
Stroh issued Michael a summons to appear in the Town Court of New Paltz on April 9 at 6 p.m., but the court meeting was adjourned until next Tuesday.
“The judge nor the prosecutor seemed to want to touch it,” Joe said. “They advised my brother to come back with a lawyer, which I think is just ridiculous.”