Seniors citizens trash garbage collection proposal

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:00

    SPARTA - Township officials will attempt to amend a proposed solid-waste collection contract that they had hoped would reduce homeowner costs and improve residential services in Sparta. The decision comes on the heels of a town hall meeting last week when a number of senior citizens on fixed incomes spoke out against the proposal that would add residential trash to other waste disposal services provided by the township. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Aurora Reise, a 47-year resident. “Don’t ram down our throats something we don’t want.” Township manager Henry Underhill said the public bid combined solid-waste services for garbage, recycling, leaves, and bulk under one three-year contract. He said only one hauler, Waste Management, bid on all items in the proposal. Mayor Alish Hambel said the town would need to re-bid the proposal and consider options for residents who choose not to accept the municipal service. “It’s going to take some further creative work,” said Underhill. “I have not found any municipal contract server to allow only some people to use its service. It makes it difficult to keep track of who’s paying and who’s not paying. It’s not an easy thing to do, but we’ll look into it.” Residents currently make their own arrangements for solid-waste removal and pay a surcharge to the township for annual bulk disposal. The township picks up the cost for leaf and brush removal through property taxes. Underhill said centralizing the service under one provider would reduce costs for residents and provide a more efficient disposal of waste. Judy Smith, another Sparta senior citizen, wasn’t interested. “We learn to conserve, recycle and compose,” said Smith, who said she pays about $6 a month and 50 cents a week in gas to take her trash to the landfill. “You can wind up with an efficient garbage collection that doesn’t put you in the poor house.” The township estimates approximately 5 percent of all Sparta residents take their trash to the disposal facility in Lafayette at a cost of 10 cents per pound. Another 300 to 350 choose to pay the surcharge for bulk removal, which this year will $70, up $5 from last year’s price. “You can’t help me out with any programs,” said Harold Shane, who estimates about $40 in trash expenditures in the past 10 months. Waste Management, which has already represented the lion’s share of trash removal in the township for the past five years, bid on the contract at a cost per year of 2.07 million including $283,000 for recycling, $36,000 for leaves, $75,000 for bulk, and $1.67 million for bi-weekly trash removal. Under the proposal, residents would pay approximately $201 annually for once a week pickup or $253 a year for twice per week collection. An additional $11.35 per resident would go toward bulk disposal each year. The township would collect another $10 per residence to cover administrative costs. Underhill said residents would save about $250 a year, but would continue to be billed for leaf and brush disposal at the current frequency as well. He said most companies opt out of leaf and brush collection because of the work involved. Leaf and brush pickup costs the township between $25,000 and $30,000 each year. “I live on a fixed income and I don’t care what anyone else says, but economics is the name of the game,” said longtime resident Manny Reise, a former Sparta High School teacher who pays about $2 a week to dispose of his trash at the landfill. “We have to do the best to survive.” Underhill said the original proposal would guarantee a larger customer base to a single hauler, lower its billing costs and combine pickup routes to reduce labor, machinery and fuel expenses. In addition to the financial costs, some residents expressed concerns about physically being able to carry trash to the end of long driveways while others wondered about attracting wildlife - including bears -- to trash left out overnight for haulers. “It’s better for me to take it to the landfill,” said Randy Earl, a Glenn Road resident. “If I’m going to carry trash a ¼ mile to the end of a private road, I might as well go to the dump.” Residents had been asked to participate in an online poll to determine support for the establishment of the solid waste utility fee per house for twice-a -week residential garbage collection and monthly bulk pickup. At one point, approximately 75 percent of the respondents supported a township-administered waste removal system, but Hambel said the council was no longer putting too much stock in the survey. “The poll was worthless,” said Underhill. “The same people went in there and voted numerous times.” Meanwhile, township officials stressed that no final decision has been made. “I’m willing to listen,” said council member Scott Seelagy. “When I first heard of this proposal, I wasn’t in favor of it. I was perfectly content with making my quarterly payment to Waste Management. But no one favors a program which doesn’t provide an opt-out.”