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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 . 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.

Submit your questions or news tips to jessica.mazzola@patch.com. And, remember to sign up for Patch's daily newsletter, and get updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Speedpro Imaging Inc January 25, 2013 at 12:46 PM
I believe the weekly pick is the best choice, however, the two bids mentioned did not compare the weekly bids from both companies. Also, if the privatization goes through it would be more convenient & profitable for Mahwah resdidents if the recycling items, packing etc were less restrictive.
fred stedtler January 25, 2013 at 01:10 PM
Is the mayor still pushing for "single stream" recycling where everything (including paper) is thrown into one container? This leads to a large portion of recycling going in the trash because of glas contamination of the paper and difficulties in seperating the recycling. The whole idea of recycling is to reuse the materials-so it seems the "single stream option should not even be considered. Also, the loyal town employees should not be laid off or released-they are a valuable addition to our town.
Jessica Mazzola (Editor) January 25, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Hey Fred -- The single-stream option discussed last time was not a part of this proposal. Mr. Campion pointed that out during his presentation.
Jessica Mazzola (Editor) January 25, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Hey Speedpro -- Just a point of clarification (I'm sorry if it was confusing in the story) - According to the presentation last night, the two options (every week and every other week) went out as two separate bids. The town got a bunch of responses to each one. For the weekly option, Gaeta was the cheapest. For the every other week option, Feretti was the cheapest. The town is legally obligated to choose the lowest bidder, so if outsourcing is approved, the council will need to decide whether to go with weekly pick-up (and Gaeta) or every other week pick-up (and go with Feretti). Of all of the bidders, Feretti was the second lowest for the weekly option, and Gaeta was the second lowest for every other week. I hope that helps!
Jonathan N. Marcus January 25, 2013 at 06:10 PM
It was so wonderful to hear that there is a positive and collective dialogue underway between the Township and our employee unions with a focus on the fiscal challenges the Township is facing. We are all in this together. Last night's high level presentation of the budget revealed some hard facts that we must find a way to address: Even if 2013 brings us a total employee pay freeze across all unions and no salary increases from "step and grade", the cost for employee wages to the Township is going up a minimum of $314,000 over last year's budget due to previous collective bargaining agreement terms. In addition, employee medical insurance costs to the Township are increasing approximately $585,000. Couple these increases with the fact that Township ratables are down over $46,000,000 due to tax appeals, and we are left with a stark fiscal reality. Expenditures are up and receivables are down! As acknowledged by the Township Council last night, they have lots of work ahead of them over the next two months as they start to drill down into the numbers. As was raised numerous times last night in varied discussions, I hope that there is a focus on making decisions today that are going to be financially sustainable long into tomorrow. We can no longer afford to be making short-sighting fiscal decisions, especially in the economic climate we find ourselves in. We need to be recognizing that the decisions we make in this year's budget can have effects well beyond 2013.
Mona Lot January 26, 2013 at 11:13 AM
Why is your Mayor only concentrating on the DPW to solve"all the problems with the 2% cap",would it not be in the best interest of the town to spread the potential saving out over the entire budget?,other departments,other services should also share in the savings. we all know where the largest drain is but our elected officials are affraid to approach it.
Regenbogen January 26, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Maybe someone can answer a question for me? Who is responsible for picking up all the debris left from Hurricane Sandy. I mean trunks that are massive, piled high with their roots included and any other debris the homeowners decided to add to the heap, which also contain leaves! I hope our DPW isn't expected to take care of this. Black Oak Lane and Thunderhead are perfect examples, as well as Riverview Terrace.
Eileen Rite February 18, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Fred is a perfect example of a little knowledge being dangerous. Single stream recycling REDUCES a town's garbage "footprint" by reducing the amount of paper, glass, metal, etc that goes into the landfills, commonly referred to as "Dumping Fees". As for the "loyal town employees", how do we separate them from the disloyal, or do they both have tenure?

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