SPARTA - Township officials approved a contract this week for the disposal of recyclable materials, but they were not ready to put the lid on contracting out a uniformed residential garbage collection program. The township council awarded Waste Management a three-year contract for the curbside residential collection, transportation and disposal of recyclable materials not to exceed $282,947 in 2006, $292,992 in 2007, and $303,393 in 2008. Fees for recyclable pick-up are paid through annual property taxes. Meanwhile, township officials continue to explore avenues for once- and twicena-week trash collection and monthly bulk waste removal through a municipal contract. Township Manager Henry Underhill offered a proposal for solid waste services including garbage, recycling, leaves, and bulk in one contract for public bid. Residents currently make 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 having a collection service under one roof would reduce costs for residents and provide a more efficient disposal of waste. Mayor Alish Hambel said she would not be in favor of imposing a collection service on residents. “I don’t like mandating something like that with people,” she said. “I don’t want to push it down the throats of people who don’t want it.” Residents have been asked to participate in an online poll at www.spartanj.org to determine support for the establishment of a solid waste utility fee per house for twice-a -week residential garbage collection and monthly bulk pick-up. To date, approximately 75 percent of the respondents support a waste removal system administered by the township. “If that sample holds true, you’re going to have a large number of people opt out,” said Councilman Scott Seelagy, who agreed with the mayor. “If you’re not going to make it mandatory, you may have so many people opt out that it no longer becomes cost-effective.” Under the proposal, residents would pay approximately $201 annually for weekly pick-up or $253 annually for twice weekly collection. An additional $11.35 per residence would go toward bulk disposal each year. In addition, residents would continue to be billed for leaf and brush disposal at the current frequency. According to Underhill, this plan would save households approximately $250 a year. Underhill explained that most companies opt out of leaf and brush collection because of the work involved. Leaf and brush pick-up costs the township between $25,000 and $30,000 each year. Approximately 5 percent of Sparta residents take their trash to the disposal facility in Lafayette, said Underhill. Another 300 to 350 choose to pay the $70 surcharge for bulk removal. Underhill said the township will amend the proposed contract based on the responses and feedback it receives from residents. “These are all proposals at this point,” he said. According to Underhill, only one company, Waste Management, bid on all items in the proposal, offering the service 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. The town manager said Waste Management has represented the lion’s share of trash removal in the township for the past five years. If adopted, Underhill said, the proposal would mean more administrative work for the township, but additional staff would not be necessary. He said payment would be applied similar to the automated water billing, on a quarterly basis, perhaps one week following the other. “If people have questions, they are going to call us,” he said. “There will be some overhead, but I believe the current staff would have no problem.” Details of the proposal will be made available at the town hall meeting, Saturday, Oct. 22.