Garwood Council Votes 'No' on Bulk Pickup, Again
Councilmembers shot down an opt-in permit bulk pickup program by a 3-2 vote.
At Tuesday night's borough council meeting, councilmembers voted three to two against resolutions that would have established an opt-in bulk pickup program.
The opt-in program would have been a self-funding program in which residents could buy a $95 permit and have their bulk waste (up to 750 lbs.) picked up. This program was created to fill the void left after Garwood eliminated taxpayer-supported borough-provided pickup in 2010. That cut was a budgetary one; eliminating the program would help to compensate for a loss of $126,000 in state aid. (The program cost the borough $32,500 for six pickups, three on either side of town, in 2009.)
After asking that the resolutions be removed from the consent agenda, Councilmember Keith Sluka led the debate on the program arguing that since Garwood had gotten out of bulk pickup, it should stay out of it.
"You’ve heard my rant and rave about how this is not a government function. We keep trying to take a private function and make a government program," said Sluka. "You may say, well it's not going to cost the taxpayers any money. It’s already cost the taxpayers money with the clerk going back and forth and getting quotes. We’ve gone through this for two years and the fact that we can’t come to a simple, clean conclusion really dictates to me that it’s not a government function."
Outside of his philosophical objections, Sluka also pointed to the flaws of the opt-in program. The program would require permits to be sold in batches of 25. If 49 residents opted in, Sluka said, "we'd have to promptly call back 24 of them and tell them they can't be in the program because we couldn't get another 25. Think about what terrible customer service that is."
Borough Administrator and Clerk Christina Ariemma replied that there was no avoiding the 25 increment problem as the program had been priced that way rather than by asking for interested residents to sign up and having the hauler price the program for the total amount of participants. Ariemma said that the quoted price for Giordano Companies, the hauler to whom the contract would have been awarded, was $1,200 for a truck and labor to accommodate 25 permits. (The cost breakdown per permit is $48.00 for the truck/loader, a $35.94 tipping fee and an $11.06 mailing cost and administration fee for the $95 total.)
When asked her opinion on the opt-in program by Councilman Jim Mathieu, Mayor Patricia Quattrocchi said she was in favor of it.
"I feel that we could or should offer one last opportunity and if there are people who don’t want to participate then they don’t participate," said Quattrocchi. "If people want to share the cost of a permit between two or three neighbors, that's fine. I think we'll probably end up with 75 to 100 households total and we'll just make it first come, first serve basis. That’s what’s fair to do."
Councilman Lou Petruzzelli also voiced support for the program. Although Councilman Sluka had given an example of having an old entertainment center picked up for a mere $30 by a carting company, Petruzzelli countered that his neighbor had called the same carting company for pickup of a couch and the cost would have been $500.
After more than 30 minutes of discussion, councilmembers voted three (Sluka, Mathieu, Todisco) to two (Petruzzelli, Hak) against the program. Councilman Victor DeFilippo was absent at Tuesday's meeting. Had he been present and voted for the program, the tie-breaking vote would have been cast by Mayor Quattrocchi.
Bulk pickup has had an infamous history in the borough and was a major topic of discussion in the 2010 election when Quattrocchi unseated former mayor Dennis McCarthy. Several residents expressed dissatisfaction with how the program was cut back then, as they received a notice saying only that it had been canceled but with no explanation as to why and with no suggestion of a permit program in its place.
A pilot opt-in program was proposed by the first administration at the end of 2010 and came to fruition under Quattrocchi's administration in 2011. That program offered pickup through a $55 permit and the bulk was hauled by Garwood's own Department of Public Works. Wear-and-tear on DPW trucks and concerns about using DPW employees, led council to seek an outside company for the job in the newly suggested program.
Councilmembers also voiced concerns about the leap in price for the permit ($95 versus $55 previously) and both Sluka and Mathieu alluded to bulk pickup being a political issue.
"The biggest issue with bulk is in November," said Sluka. "It's called an election."
Mathieu added that a new reporter at a previous meeting came up to him and asked, "In your town garbage is political?"
"I said 'Yeah, actually it is,'" said Mathieu. "Welcome to Garwood."