Garbage tote arson latest chapter In long running comedy sketch


Niagara Falls – A series of arson fires targeting city-owned garbage totes has become a serious enough concern that both Fire Chief Thomas Colangelo and Police Chief Bryan Dal Porto have asked for the public’s help in identifying the culprits.

In the meantime, Colangelo warned, garbage totes should be kept away from the sides of homes and fences and instead placed in the rear or middle of yards. He also advised that totes not be left unattended outside of garbage pick-up times.

This past weekend, two fires spread from burning totes to ignite nearby residences. A fire in the 2400 block of Whitney Avenue Sunday spread inside a home and set it aflame, climbing an outside wall and through a broken window. Five people escaped with their lives.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster’s “recycling plan” has been troubled from the start. Startup costs of $2.3 million to buy and deliver some 10,000 new blue (64 gallon) refuse totes and (96 gallon) recycling green totes, along with $78,000 a year for city employees to oversee the program came at a time when the recycling industry is slumping badly.

Although Dyster claimed the program would save the city $500,000 annually, it quickly became apparent that the city would lose money. Small businesses faced increased costs and residents faced fines and other sanctions for not complying. Outraged taxpayers, led by Third Street businessman and longtime Dyster supporter Craig Avery, called publicly for the resignation of City Administrator Donna Owens, who Dyster credited for creating the plan.

In 2013, the last full year prior to Dyster’s recycling plan, the city paid Modern Disposal Inc. of Lewiston about $2.9 million for trash collection. In 2015, the first full year city residents will get to enjoy the fruits of Dyster’s tote plan, taxpayers were socked with a whopping tab of nearly $3.8 million.

Fire Chief Thomas Colangelo told the Niagara Falls City Council Monday his department has responded to a number of blazes in alleyways and near homes. The “heaviest concentration” has been reported in the Falls’ mid-city and downtown areas – Whitney to Forest avenues between 18th and 24th streets – during the late evening hours, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

“The majority of them have been started in city-owned garbage totes,” he said.

Colangelo noted that arson, even to a garbage tote, is a felony crime in the state of New York.

“I don’t think whoever is starting these fires are aware of that,” Colangelo said. “The fire and police departments are taking these fires very seriously and will not stop investigating until we find the person or persons responsible.”

Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said that, although it may appear like a series of small crimes, the property damage to totes and structures will add up and his department intends to “fully investigate” the matter.

On the various Facebook pages dedicated to Niagara Falls news, this latest chapter in Dyster’s trash plan folly was treated like a new episode in some bizarre television sitcom.

“How else do you expect all the homeless in the city to keep warm geez?” asked Matthew Newman.

Alan Chortie paraphrased the bumbling Sgt. Schultz on the old “Hogan’s Heroes” comedy program. “With all the security cameras, and cell phones no one knows anything?” he asked.

Gregg Larkin brought up an earlier pratfall. James Dolson, the man Dyster picked to play “Totes McGoats,” described as the city’s recycling mascot and children’s liason, was convicted of dealing heroin.

“Totes McGoats was replaced with a cardboard cutout,” Larkin wrote. “This is his way of getting even. Stick it to the man, Totes!”

Jeffrey S. Bykowicz joined in the fun.

“Has Totes McGoats been questioned?” Bykowicz asked.

One possibility overlooked by city officials and Facebook wags alike is that, perhaps, the garbage tote fires are a form of protest against a massive fail by the Dyster administration, similar to the rash parking meter pole cuttings that occurred when then-mayor Irene Elia attempted to push through an unpopular parking plan.

totie v

The Mayor and his mascot for the controversial trash removal and recycling program. Paul Dyster [l] and Totes McGoats [r].

Stick it to the man indeed.

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