The Mahwah Township Council Thursday night voted to keep recycling services in Mahwah despite urging from the administration that outsourcing would be the best available option to help the township meet its financial obligations in the face of a state 2 percent tax cap.
The council voted 5 to 2 to keep the Department of Public Works as the recycling service provider. The decision came after a two and a half hour back and forth meeting in which the administration presented its argument for outsourcing the Department of Public Works and dozens of Mahwah residents adamantly spoke out against the proposal.
Council members John Spiech and Samuel Alderisio voted for the outsourcing and council members Roy Larson, John Roth, Charles Jandris, Lisa DiGiulio and Harry Williams voted against.
A number of council members expressed trepidation with the plan, suggesting the decision should be held off until the financial situation could be analyzed further and understood more completely.
"I see no compelling reason why this decision has to be made in 2012," Councilman Williams said.
Councilwoman DiGiulio at times spoke vehemently against the proposition.
"You could privatize everything... but is that the kind of town we want to live in?" DiGiulio asked rhetorically. "What kind of community would this be? I don't want to lose any of the [township employees.]"
The future of the township’s Recycling Department had been in question following a at which Mayor Bill Laforet proposed privatizing the department. More than 130 residents, including a large group of employees wearing neon green shirts — and with a large blow-up union rat in tow — 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.
The plan floated by the administration proposed a savings of more than $334,000 through privatization.
Councilman Roth, however, questioned the figures presented by the administration's plan at the August 9 meeting, calling them "almost laughable."
"How could those numbers be realistic?" asked Roth. "I don't think this math is right and I don't think the savings are real."
Business Administrator Brian Campion and Laforet both rebuked Roth, defending the cost savings plan, which is attached to this story.
"It's unconscionable that an $83,000 employee is picking up your recycling," Laforet said after the August 9 meeting. "We would have saved nearly $4 million over 10 years and this council decided to vote against the tax payer."
"The taxpayer needs to know the truth about what's going on," Laforet continued.
Laforet said the only reasons any council member had voted against the outsourcing plan were "purely political" ones. Asked what the administration would do to meet its budget goals, Laforet was hesitant.
"We now have to go into the budget season realizing 100 percent of the savings in only nine months of the year," he responded. "The cuts that you will see are dire."