Mayor, DPW May Reach Compromise on Recycling Privatization
The mayor is again proposing to privatize the township's Recycling Department, but meetings with the DPW may land on an agreeable solution between the union and the township
In order to meet a 2% tax cap, Mayor Bill Laforet has suggested the township privatize its Recycling Department, which is currently operated by seven township employees. When Laforet first suggested the switch last summer, it prompted a huge backlash from the township’s DPW, and was eventually voted down by the town council. However, after a presentation Thursday night, DPW workers said they may be able to reach a compromise with the mayor during union negotiation talks, which are currently ongoing.
During a budget presentation Thursday night, Business Administrator Brian Campion explained the mayor’s proposal, which asks the council to eliminate the DPW’s Recycling Department and replacing it with a contracted private company. The administration anticipates the move would eventually save Mahwah about $200,000 a year, Campion said. Savings would likely not be realized this calendar year because of "transitional costs" associated with switching the recycling pick-up system, he said.
Of the seven employees in the department, Campion said two would be maintained, two would be moved to the township’s water department, and three would be laid off.
“We anticipate that [those three employees] would come back by the beginning of next year, because we are expecting some retirements of senior employees,” Campion said. The laid off DPW workers would be recalled to fill the retirees’ jobs, he said.
Last summer, the DPW fought the privatization proposal. However, union representative Marc Bracciodieta, who recently made headlines for scuffles with Laforet, thanked the mayor and administrator for working with the union while putting together the current privatization proposal.
“We’ve made great strides in patching our relationship, and saving jobs,” he told the council Thursday night. “I am optimistic that if we continue to work together, respect one another, and keep the lines of communication open, we can [do what’s] best for Mahwah taxpayers.”
Laforet said he could not reveal specific details of the discussions he is having with the union, but said that he too believes they could end in a compromise between the two sides.
“The discussions are very encouraging, they are just not complete,” he said.
According to the administration, if the two sides reach an agreement, it would lessen the layoff impact currently being proposed.
The township received bids from local companies for two privatization possibilities – one that would pick-up recycling every other week, the way it is now, and one that would increase pick-up to every week. The administration suggested accepting a Gaeta Recycling bid for about $234K that would pick up the township’s recycling once a week.
Though the other option would be cheaper – the lowest bidder for the every other week option was Ferretti Carting, which would charge about $178K a year – Campion said administration felt the other option would be better because it would be an increased service to residents, and would result in more recycled materials collected, which would be an increased revenue opportunity for the township, he said.
Campion also said Gaeta’s references, other towns the company has worked with before, highly recommended the service. Ferretti did not come so highly recommended, Campion said.
Several council members spoke out against the privatization plan, citing many of the same protestations they had last summer. Councilman John Roth said he disagreed with administration’s cost-savings estimate, and Councilwoman Lisa DiGiulio said she does not want to lay off employees who know the township and complete other DPW jobs outside of the Recycling Department.
The council did not make a decision on the recycling proposal Thursday night. Administration is expected to make another presentation on it after union negotiation talks have wrapped.
The recycling privatization proposal was part of the mayor’s budget presentation Thursday night, which suggested raising the town’s tax rate 4.9%. See the details of the proposed budget here.