Fate Of Township Recycling Department Remains Undecided

Town council considered privatizing the department, which could save money but may cost township jobs

The future of the township’s Recycling Department is up in the air, after a combative town council meeting Thursday night at which Mayor Bill Laforet proposed privatizing the department. Over 130 residents, including a large group of employees clad in bright yellow shirts and a blow-up union rat, gathered at town hall to hear the council’s opinions on privatization.

The Recycling Department, made up of seven public employees, is an arm of the DPW. Laforet proposed eliminating the department and replacing it with a private service that would pick up and transport residents’ recycling. According to Business Administrator Brian Campion, the town council needs to vote on whether or not it wants to privatize the department. Four privatizing options exist, he said:

  • Dual stream recycling picked up every other week (what happens now)
  • Dual stream recycling picked up every week
  • Single stream recycling picked up every other week
  • Single stream recycling picked up every week

Dual stream recycling is what the township currently engages in, where residents are required to separate paper products from other mixed recyclables. In a single stream system, all materials can be placed together.

The township put all four options out to bid, and received bids ranging from $189K – $275K for each of the different options. Laforet recommended the single-stream, every week option, which had a low bidder that would charge $240K a year.

The current recycling arm of the DPW is made up of seven positions, which would be eliminated from the township budget if the council voted in favor of privatization. Two positions are vacant. Two of the employees would be moved to open positions in the township’s water department, Campion said. Of the remaining three, two were hired this spring on a probationary level because the town was already considering a switch to a private service, and one would be laid off, he said.

The plan would go into effect October 1, with the laid off employee “to be recalled in January, we expect, after an anticipated retirement,” Campion said. The probationary employees would be placed on a recall list, he said.

The move, Laforet said, would save the township $220,000 a year, and “have the potential to save Mahwah $2.75M over 10 years.”

During a two-hour discussion, council members disputed the potential for savings, and the merits of switching to single stream, weekly recycling.

Councilman John Roth said the plan would shift money in the township budget, rather than save it. “I’m not sure the savings are real,” he said. He and Councilwoman Lisa DiGiulio brought up concerns about what impact this might have on leaf collection and snow removal, which are duties performed by Recycling employees when necessary.

Campion said the switch may require the township to outsource the snow removal in a section of town, but said that the monetary impact would be negated by funding less in-house snow removal units. The council asked to see specific numbers on how much the additional outsourcing would cost.

Councilman Chuck Jandris cited online statistics about single stream recycling, saying that though it is more convenient for residents, and the amount of recycled material generally goes up when a municipality switches to a single stream model, the quality of the recycled material goes down. His argument was backed up by Danny Ferretti, the owner of one of the bidding private companies, who spoke during the public portion of the meeting.

“Commodities recycled in a single stream system lose value,” he said, because the compacting process they go through during pickup renders some of the material useless, as pieces of glass mix with bits of paper, and the two cannot be separated from one another.

Campion said the administration supported single stream because it would be more convenient for residents, and is estimated to increase the amount of recycling done by Mahwah residents. The switch could potentially allow the township to take in more revenue from recycled materials, and spend less on garbage removal, he said.

Council members also questioned the proposal to begin privatizing on October 1. “I’m upset that this was not discussed at budget time,” DiGiulio said. “I think we should talk about this then, when we can look at how to save money across all departments, not just one.”

Campion said the move to privatization would help the township meet the state-mandated two-percent tax levy cap in 2013. “If we don’t act now, we will be back here in January having a very similar discussion,” he said.

Laforet added this is the “perfect time” to make the change, because it would allow the township to fill positions currently vacant in the water department with DPW workers. If the council votes to do this in January, the number of layoffs would potentially be higher, as open positions would have already been filled with other applicants, he said.

Much of the debate swirled around what Laforet called the “human factor,” those employees that would be losing their jobs.

Resident Meg Winthrop told the council that this decision would impact her family directly. “You have a young man who is just starting out, just ready to move into his own apartment. Single stream or dual stream, whatever. The effect on my family would be downstream.”

DPW worker Marc Bracciodieta addressed the council and the mayor asking for different options to be considered. “Why not talk to your employees, the people who have experience in how this works everyday, and ask them for solutions and ideas on how you could save money?” he asked.

The council decided to table any decision on the issue, and revisit it at its July 26 meeting. “We should have the information presented in a better format at that meeting,” Council President John Spiech said. “And, it may not be the last [meeting on the topic]," he said.

Andy Schmidt July 17, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Ref, can't remember ever having to wonder about the sky falling or whom at town hall I would have to call if ever my garbage was not picked up by the contractor!? I take it to be an indication that it operates smoothly and that they hired staff who knows how to lift a container into a truck...
thunder b July 17, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Randy no one said the patch misquoted.. had you been at the meeting it would be apparent to you that not enough data was collected and calculated correctly for that matter. go to a meeting and you'll realize how idiotic and self-centered you sound. it does matter what department gets cut because if the recycling dept. gets to boot the whole town including your ignorant self will be affected!
thunder b July 17, 2012 at 02:40 AM
andy i'd like to see your garbage man put out a fire near you or respond to a medical emergency. think before you speak next time. whether you realize it or not everyone supporting the recycling department is not related to them. they just appreciate EVERYTHING they do for the town because the DPW is not like your GARBAGE MAN they do MORE than pick up your trash..
Andy Schmidt July 17, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Thunder B - we are talking about a department of 5. Some of those will work in the water dept or fill other positions in town (where otherwise additional staff would have been hired). How could the fire dept or ambulance corps be effected if the same person works in a different township department? Yes, there is a gentlemen who was offered a probationary job THIS SPRING. How did the fire dept and ambulance corps ever operate PRIOR to this person being hired in Spring - the same way they will operate once the temporary employment ends in October. Furthermore, are you implying that this person's volunteer spirit suddenly arose this spring, because he was paid by the town? Or was this person a volunteer before - unrelated to his place of employment? I'm glad the council is giving this a thorough look. If they crunch the number and it turns out to be a good move for the town, then it's their job to consider it. I understand that the union (who was reported to have been kept abreast of the planning) and the newly hired employees (who were told of this development when they took the jobs) have valid strictly personal reasons to plead their case - but the council has to look beyond what's good for one person and determine if this is good for the township as a whole.
thunder b July 17, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Andy, some of those workers as in 2 of them as stated by the council will fill vacancies that at budget time were voted not to fill. Therefore, you are not saving any money because they are switching the employees to UNFUNDED positions. I didn't say anything about the probationary employee(s) because I know and understand they were hired on a proabtionary level. So go wipe up the diahrea of the mouth you are experiencing. I do not know this persons affiliation with the town volunteer services. What I do know is that most see the emergency services and town departments as a TEAM not as one man or woman doing it all. Many also appreciate them volunteering otherwise privatizing them...YOU would be paying!! Also I am not implying anything.. remember what it means when you ass-u-me.... I do not know which workers are members and which are not, but it does not take a brain surgeon to figure out, if they get laid off and get a job some elsewhere their services may not be available. Regardless of their volunteer services at the end of the day all their duties they are obliged to at work get completed so most see it as an added bonus for the town. The vote was tabled because council pointed out some pinholes in the budgeting aspect. There are pro's and con's to almost everything. I'm sure once the math is calculated the obvious decision will be chosen. It was a pleasure hearing back from you.
Andy Schmidt July 17, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Thunder B - we agree in principle (despite your language): Ideally, nothing would change at all, and I'd be willing to pay for that. However, since the town is limited by the state as to how much it is permitted to spend each each, while at the same time mandated to pay for certain things -- there is a "scissor" effect of costs rising faster than 2%, while tax revenue cannot be used to compensate. Now, given the choice of cutting township services outright, I rather have the council consider opportunities where services can be maintained at a lower cost by using outside contractors. That's all! We don't do garbage collection ourselves either - for a reason - so we do can actually look back how these kind of arrangements work out. I'm not against the DPW or their workers, I"ve never had any issues with their staff. Consequently, I would have no problem at all to pay for the status quo with slightly higher taxes - but that's an option the state took away from me and you. Very nice talking to you, too.
Ralph July 17, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Fair enough Randy H. I respect your comments and opinions like everyone else on this forum, however at times this communication avenue has been used by members of the elected community to voice their opinion about subjects without having the (let me put it nicely) GUTS to put their real name on their opinion for fear of not being re-elected. Some of them have multiple alias' I cant figure out why this is done. I can assure you that some of the regulars are in fact elected officials who just wont give their real names. Some of the regulars are also election wannabees.
Roger Pachiderm July 17, 2012 at 06:53 PM
JP July 17, 2012 at 07:00 PM
What I hate about anytime a government wants to take something private, is the possibility of collusion. Giving a sweet deal to friends, relatives, acquaintances, or business associates. Our council should be absolutely positive about who these contracts go to, how they came to bid on such projects, and their company's background and history. They need to be vetted very well to avoid the possibility of any town scandal in the future. Be careful with our tax dollars. Just my opinion.
Mark July 18, 2012 at 02:27 AM
You've heard the sayings "you get what you pay for" and "if it seems too good to be true". I think they describe what is being proposed by the administration.
Andy Schmidt July 18, 2012 at 02:31 PM
If we do end up paying a contractor to handle recycling for the township - and we actually DO get what we paid for (like we do for garbage pickup already) - then this would be a GOOD arrangement!?
Randy H July 18, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Andy, I could not agree more, if the job is done right and cheaper I would say it is a great arrangement. In the end, it is all about who can get the job done for the least amount, if it turns out a contractor can do it cheaper then the town, it is just good business period. it is nothing personal towards the town or it's employees.
Grace July 23, 2012 at 04:01 PM
i want to know where our Counsel members stand on this issue. Why are they all meeting in private? Are they going to spring a 'yes' vote on us at the August 9th meeting and wash their hands of the issue. There needs to be more public debate.
JP July 23, 2012 at 04:07 PM
But we in town need to make sure this is not a slippery slope to start effecting public workers cut by cut. Once you take a finger, they want a hand, and then an arm, until your public workers don't exist at all.
ref July 30, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Rumor has it our "Mayor" has a new spin on the recycle issue,should be interesting to hear at the next council meeting,come on Mr. Roth keep them on the same page.
lori dorie August 07, 2012 at 03:06 PM
I would like to know, If we privatize recycling how much is it going to cost us to outsource snow plowing and leaf pick-up. I think any savings we would make in privatizing recycling would certainly be eaten up, possibly in one snow storm, by having out of town companies come in to do the work the recycling employees do. This is to Andy Schmidt, my garbage was not picked up one day...who did I call...the DPW and they send someone to my house immediately to take away my garbage! I think we need more long term facts before any decisions are made on privatizing recycling.
Andy Schmidt August 07, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Lori - very valid questions. The council needs to make sure that all functions provided by the recycling crew are being covered in the "bottom tally" before deciding on this. PS: I'm glad to hear that you were able to have your garbage pickup addressed right-away. Garbage pickup has been outsourced for many years - and you have experienced first-hand that issues are being addressed swiftly by the township.
lori dorie August 07, 2012 at 09:46 PM
yes they were by the dpw dept!!
Andy Schmidt August 07, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Lori, to answer your other question - recycling pick-up, 10 days of leaf pick up and snow removal are part of the proposal. The stated savings are AFTER all these private services have been paid for. Keep in mind, it's not just the things you see, like personnel. But there are also insurances, maintenance of trucks, money you have to set aside each year so that you can buy replacement trucks from time to time. And, winter storms aren't always nice enough to occur Mo-Fri 9-5. Trust me, even if we pay a typical commercial rate of $150/hour is still less than paying an employee regular salary plus x-times overtime for night-time/weekend work, fuel, truck maintenance, etc. I'm sure the council will look at all these numbers carefully before they make a decision. I don't think it's prudent to dismiss this outright, just for sentimental reasons.
Really!! August 07, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Lori to clarify what Mr. schmidt is spewing, one can't predict a snowstorm or overtime for DPW workers so therefore if it doesn't snow this winter there will be no overtime for the DPW workers. However in my experience with private contractors you agree to a set fee for the season therefore they get paid whether it snows or not. Correct me if I am wrong but the DPW workers punch in and out.... they aren't paid if they don't work. So let's pay strict attention to that bottom line. Also if it does snow do you think that a contractor is going to be standing by waiting to come to Mahwah and take care of our streets first? I highly doubt it....I'm sure that they are not strictly committed to Mahwah. I don't know about you but I feel more comfortable knowing that the DPW that my tax dollars are paying for are standing by waiting for the call.
Really!! August 07, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Not to mention I feel more comfortable recognizing the town trucks and workers picking up my leaves and removing snow from my streets than having some strangers doing it.
Andy Schmidt August 08, 2012 at 01:16 AM
If you enter into an hourly contract, with certain response times, then you pay by the hour, not the season. Don't know if a performance bond and/or non-compliance penalties can be worked into a municipal contract as an added incentive to stick to the contract. (Obviously, the contractor knows he cannot be in more than one place at the same time - so he serializes his other commitments accordingly. I know that my contractor makes it very clear which commitments have higher priority, such as shopping malls, hospitals, churches on Sunday morning - before he can fulfill my contract.) As far as recognizing the driver behind a snow plow in the street. I try to minimize being on the road during a snowstorm. I can't remember ever being to recognize the face on a wheel while I'm safely inside my house -- so it wouldn't be any different in the future. The same is true for leaves pick-up. Maybe some people are able to sit by the curb all day, just so that they can greet the pick-up personnel at some point during the day; I have to go to work so I never had that luxury. Nothing will change for people who work for a living.
Really!! August 08, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Mr.Schmidt I'm glad that you can minimize your time on the road during a snowstorm but some of us have to work no matter what. So who's sitting by the curb all day watching the snowflakes fall? Just because you have a different opinion on privatizing than I do doesn't mean that you are the only one who works. I've had first hand experience with outside contractors where the workers are getting paid min. wage and aren't invested in the community where they work the result is a high turnover rate and subpar work. If this happens in our town we as the residents will suffer while a contractor has already been paid so he won't have that vested interest that our DPW workers have. By the way you cannot determine what a contracor "obviously knows", you'd be surprised. Further I highly doubt that you are going to find a contractor who agrees to an "hourly rate" if so it will more than likely be inflated to cover the possiblility of a mild winter. I can't debate this with you any further this evening because I do work for a living & need to go to bed...so wait I guess as a taxpayer my opinion counts too, so yes if it happens it will be a change for me. Hopefully the council will feel more vested in our community than some appear to and realize that the savings don't add up. By the way you should become more involved in our community and attend things like Mahwah Day, sporting events, go to the park etc. and when you do thank a DPW worker for their good work and get to know them.
Andy Schmidt August 08, 2012 at 02:14 AM
>> attend things like Mahwah Day << can't remember when I missed one >> sporting events << done >> go to the park << all the time Any other assumptions I can disprove for you? >> during a snowstorm but some of us have to work no matter what << which includes me... But during my drive through the township in the morning and evening darkness during a snowstorm, I can't recall ever having been able even see the face of the driver behind the wheel in a darkened cab of a snow plow. >> thank a DPW worker for their good work << I've had occasions to do so. I've found them to be very courteous and don't recall ever having had issues with the DPW staff. I can't recall ever having issues with the garbage contractor, either. I have nothing against our DPW workers - I also have nothing against the council looking at township services to see if alternatives are feasible. They are just doing what they have been tasked to do.
Hank August 08, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Right now the DPW plow guys know exactly where to put the excess snow on my street. They know that the curb narrows at a certain spot and there are two hills that must be double salted or else. 30 years and no complaints. Never had to replace a mailbox or parts of my lawn. I would guess there will be more days off at school with the private contractors wrestling with Miller Rd, Airmont, Stag Hill etc.
Unknown August 08, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Keep jobs within Mahwah! The DPW guys have always done an outstanding job! Snow removal is every towns nightmare as far as costs are concerned, the weather is so unpredictable and having our own guys is a huge savings over outsourcing!! Don't try and fix something that works just to say you saved money, there are plenty of other opportunities out there to save money without changing the lives of our own workers!! Everyone in todays day and age are doing extra just to remain competitive in the job market, our DPW guys have always gone above and beyond and they are very much appreciated!!!!
Andy Schmidt August 08, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Hi Hank - this proposal is NOT about the Streets and Roads crews and other divisions of the DPW, who have been plowing your (and other streets) for the past 30 years. The two people effected by lay-off were hired this Spring, so you'll see the same faces this December that you saw last December manning the plows.
Hank August 08, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I know . Somewhere it was mentioned that $150 per hour for a snowplow contractor is cheaper than town employee. Just putting my 2 cents in.
Andy Schmidt August 08, 2012 at 02:07 PM
@Unknown: The two people of the recycling crew effected by lay-off were hired this Spring. The various crews of the Streets and Roads and other DPW divisions that you saw manning the plows last December will be back this December.
Really!! August 08, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Well said "unknown"! What some fail to realize is that it's not about "knowing the face" that you are seeing but it is more about knowing that the face is accountable for the work that they are doing to their boss and community. What do you think is going to happen with a private contractor? Do u think that his skeleton staff is just sitting around waiting for it to snow in Mahwah? More than likely they have other jobs that they need to work at first. As far as I know the DPW workers punch in and out (no matter what time of night) and are therefore accountable.To me that peace of mind is worth losing a mere $2 on my next tax bill. Believe me if this does happen with the way this has been done you will never see any proported savings, they will just tell you it had to go to something else anyway. All you will be left with is a bunch of piled up snow and leaves that wasn't taken care of properly. I'm just saying.


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