MANSFIELD: Town looking into privatizing trash pickup

At its May 22 meeting, committee members discussed staffing problems along with planning to prepare requests for companies to bid on providing the trash pickup service.

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
   MANSFIELD — The Township Committee is looking at turning over trash pickup to a private company.
   At its May 22 meeting, committee members discussed staffing problems along with planning to prepare requests for companies to bid on providing the trash pickup service.
   ”We are having a lot of problems with the help,” Mayor Arthur Puglia said. “In a matter of four weeks we have had three people leave.”
   According to Deputy Mayor Robert Higgins, two years ago the township did a study and put together a committee.
   ”Jeff Jones (superintendent and working supervisor) has expressed in the last year frustration and so this is not just something that we are all of a sudden changing direction,” Mr. Higgins said.
   According to Mr. Higgins, Mr. Jones was suppose to be just overseeing the department and now “it is just occupying too much of his time” and “it is going the wrong direction.” The town is down to one employee, according to Mr. Monzo.
   ”We have two temporary, as-needed, sanitation, recycling, building and grounds employees that have been covering all three departments. Plus we have had to go out and do a temp agency,” Municipal Clerk Linda Semus wrote in an email.
   ”If we look at it on an annual basis, the three employees that we had in that position before, with respect to their salaries, health and Social Security costs, labor rate because of time off, clothing costs, worker compensation costs, pension savings is close to $200,000 a year in an annual basis to run that operation, not counting fuel, the down payment for the trash truck, repairs,” said Chief Financial Officer Joseph Monzo.
   According to Mr. Monzo, Mount Laurel placed a bid about two months ago and based on the number of pickups Mansfield does he estimates that the cost would be $190,000 in savings based on the number of households.
   The schedule would remain the same with a once a week pickup.
   ”In my mind in terms of costs, it’s actually a savings to us,” Mr. Monzo said. “If this is not a state contract issue then put together the bid specs which I have from other jurisdictions for us to explore,” Mr. Monzo said, adding he expects the town could get started around September or October once the bids are awarded.
   ”Are we really going out to bid or are we contacting the people who have state contracts for our community?” asked Mr. Higgins.
   According to Mr. Monzo, the information that he has from Ms. DiGiuseppe is in reference to state contracts but he is “not sure this is a state contract for residential trash pickup.”
   ”I think that contract may be for commercial and apartments and if that’s the case then we have to go out to a formal bidder,” Mr. Monzo said.
   Committeewoman Janice DiGiuseppe said she would follow up with the state to clarify if the state contract “covers us.”
   According to Mr. Monzo, if the township is covered he will contact Burlington County and speak to the companies that are authorized, three of them, under that contract, and will get “informal quotes from them.”
   Mr. Monzo said Sunday that they “are going to have to bid that.”
   Mayor Puglia believes “it’s time” to for the township to move forward and privatize.
   ”I think it’s a point now that we have to do it,” Mayor Puglia said. “Public trash is becoming more and more competitive,” Mr. Higgins said. “Our equipment is getting older. We need to go out and buy a new piece of equipment. All of these things were pointed out in that study.”
   According to Mr. Monzo, the new truck will cost around $750,000 and the township would be making payments out over 15 years.
   ”We put a down payment on that in the budget this year in anticipation of possibly buying it,” Mr. Monzo said on Sunday, adding that the committee has not passed an ordinance yet. The down payment was for $37,500.
   ”This is a very optimum time,” Mr. Higgins added.
   According to Mayor Puglia, the township with be keeping the Saturday where people can come and still do their recycling.
   ”Unbelievably, lots and lots of people come here on Saturday,” Mayor Puglia added.
   In addition, the committee unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the service of John Scilla of GSE Civil & Environmental Engineers in connection with the preparation of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the design and construction of a waste water treatment facility on the Reed Farm in Mansfield Township.
   Ms. DiGiuseppe raised a question regarding the resolution.”Do we have this in writing that the (Burlington County) Bridge Commission is going to be paying for the service?,” said Ms. DiGiuseppe.
   ”Yes the county is paying for the service,” Mr. Higgins adding that “potential grant work to get grants from the state” were being prepared in addition to the RFP.According to the resolution, the Burlington County Bridge Commission has agreed to pay for all services provided by Mr. Scilla.
   In other news, the Mr. Monzo discussed the letters and emails the township has been receiving over the affordable housing funds.
   ”They (Council on Affordable Housing) are once again trying to make a money grab for our affordable housing funds,” Mr. Monzo said.
   According to Mr. Monzo, it was stopped at the court level.
   The township has $425,000 in affordable housing funds that it does not plan to hand over anytime soon to the state.
   ”We are not going to turn over anything until we get a court order,” Mr. Monzo added. “Even though COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) keeps demanding money from towns it keeps on getting litigated by the League of Municipalities and some other towns until all this is hashed out.”
   The next committee meeting is set for 7:30 June 26 at the Municipal Building, 3135 Route 206 South, Columbus.