New York county's budget woes leave a mess ... in the bog

Col Man
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - It was BYOTP time in Buffalo: Bring Your Own Toilet Paper.

A county budget crisis left the bathrooms in a municipal office building with empty soap dispensers, paperless paper towel holders and bare cardboard toilet paper rolls. Employees also complained the bathrooms weren't being cleaned.

"It's almost humorous, but it's disgusting," said Bob Fioretti, who has worked in Erie County's Rath Building for 21 years.

"When people got to bring their own toilet paper and soap to wash their hands, it's like working in another country, a bad country," he told WGRZ-TV. Fioretti said there was waste piling up in some of the toilets.

A county environmental health crew went through the building Wednesday and said many of the bathrooms were clean and on the way to being restocked. Some toilets, however, looked like they had been deliberately plugged, said Kevin Montgomery, spokesman for the county Health Department. Those bathrooms remained closed while the health department awaited plumbers.

"The Building and Grounds Department has been cut severely," Montgomery told The Associated Press on Thursday. Besides losing money, the department has had layoffs.

"Towels and soap were running out, and that was also due to this fiscal crisis," Montgomery said. Replacement supplies couldn't be ordered until the county shifted money around.

The county, on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, is home to nearly one million people and encompasses the city of Buffalo, the weathered city that has struggled to rebuild its economy since the steel and grain mills closed. Since the 1950s, the city has lost half its population and now numbers fewer than 300,000 people.

The county has had to slash 2,000 jobs and cut services to close a $100-million-plus shortfall in its $1.1-billion budget.

Rather than raise the sales tax, it cut funding for personnel, health clinics, auto bureaus, snowplowing, parks, the arts, school nurses and other services. At one point, it was possible that zoo animals would become refugees, temporarily shipped off to other zoos for lack of funding. But the county came up with the money to keep the animals home.
Col Man
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