NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> A proposal to move to a single residential trash hauler is back on the table in Newtown Borough.
At its September 8 Zoom meeting, the council directed its solicitor to work with the borough’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) to formulate the logistics of moving to a single hauler system, including how billing would be handled.
During the meeting, EAC members brought the issue to the floor, raising concern with multiple garbage trucks rumbling through the borough on multiple days and companies consistently operating outside of their designated collection days.
Currently five companies are permitted to operate in the borough, including Waste Management, McCullough Rubbish Removal, Whitetail Disposal, Republic Services and JP Mascaro.
Bill Heinemann, who chairs the EAC, told council that the haulers frequently arrive outside the borough’s designated two day window for collection.
“There’s no yard waste pickup. There’s no multi-unit recycling. And the result is increased traffic problems on trash and recycling days, noise, wear and tear on the streets, pollution and a risk to public safety,” he said.
Heinemann made three recommendations to council - to enforce the current ordinances for pickup days, consider contracting with a single hauler and providing yard waste pickup and recycling for multi-unit dwellings.
“We’ve kept this topic very much on our agenda over the years,” Heinemann told council. “We’ve also included this as one of our suggestions in the new comprehensive plan.”
Two years ago, the EAC brought the same proposal to Council. The councilors at the time opted not to go that route, preferring personal choice in haulers and competition.
“In those two years, the situation has gotten worse,” Heinemann told the current council. “We have additional haulers now coming through. We have continued problems in all respects ... It’s a little out of control.
“The EAC believes it’s a problem that needs to be addressed,” he continued. “We recommend that the borough move toward a borough-approved single residential hauler. This should be the result of a competitive bidding process based on considerations such as price, assured pickup for every resident, addressing environmental concerns (fuel source for trucks and how yard waste and recyclables are handled), flexibility and options and recommendations for yard waste.”
Like neighboring municipalities, Heinemann said borough approval could be renewed or reopened on a periodic basis such as every three years or if the hauler fails to meet its commitments.
Councilor Bob Szwajkos asked whether “the little guys” would be squeezed out by the bigger companies by going the one hauler route.
“They can’t bid on this contract because the demands were going to put on them is too great,” he said. “We may be subjecting ourselves to the competitive warfare of two giants and knocking out the little guy. I’m not sure one hauler is the answer. Maybe two.”
Heinemann responded, “There are ways to work this out. I understand the concern. I think our primary obligation is to the residents of the borough.”
“The point is on Washington Avenue there are five haulers that go down our block,” said Councilor Julia Woldorf. “And each one of those trucks is picking up every fifth can. And that really doesn’t make any sense for them. It doesn’t make any sense for us.”
Council President Tara Grunde McLaughlin said she’s in favor of learning more details and hearing from the public on the issue. “I don’t know if (moving to single hauler) is my goal. It’s a significant thing to do because you’re changing people’s lives.”
Heinemann said that public input could be solicited during the comprehensive plan process. “You are going to be having public meetings with the comp plan,” he said.
Woldorf added that the EAC has done what it can do. Now, she said, council needs its solicitor to help put together how it will work.
“We want to make sure the public is with us on this,” said Woldorf. “But we need something a little more firm to offer them and say, ‘Here are your options.’ And clearly one of the big ones is going to be it’s not going to cost you more than what you’ve got now.”
Mayor Corky Swartz added a historical perspective to the discussion, recalling when the borough had a one hauler system.
“It used to be that you contracted yourself and then the borough got into it. And it was a very good thing because everyone knew when trash day was. They had one hauler and everything was done,” said Swartz. “I do believe the primary goal that we have here is to get the trash collected. And I think one hauler is the best way to go for the borough.”
The mayor recommended that council take the position “that this is what we want to do, put it in the comprehensive plan, have everyone comment on it at the comprehensive plan meetings and then it’s over and done with. That way it gets done and the sooner it gets done the better it’s going to be for the community,” he said.
In other action, the council voted unanimously to hire consultant David Woglom of the Meyner Center at Lafayette College to conduct an organizational assessment and administrative analysis of the borough’s operations and administrative structure at a cost not to exceed $4,000.
The assessment, said Council President McLaughlin, will review performance, determine current strengths and opportunities for improvement and assess its ability to meet the present and future challenges facing the borough.
Before coming to the Meyner Center where he is associate director, Woglom was a municipal manager for 27 years. He is familiar with the best practices of municipal administrative functions and financial affairs.
“This guy has an incredible resume and very good references. And frankly I was stunned at how inexpensive this is. I think it’s a great deal,” said Councilor Susan Turner. “The sooner we can get this done then the sooner we can put to bed any concerns about are we organized the way we should be or are we not? Do we need a borough manager? Do we need one part-time or do we not? It would be really good to do this as quickly as feasible.”
While council voted unanimously to move forward with the assessment, they disagreed on the timing.
Councilor Julia Woldorf joined Turner in pressing to have the assessment done during the current budget year.
“We have been talking about the administrative structure of the borough for years. If we keep pushing this off and pushing this off it will be another year where we haven’t addressed what is becoming a very significant problem for the borough from an administrative point of view,” said Woldorf. “$4,000 is not a lot of money. It’s more of an immediate concern. This should be addressed sooner rather than later.”
The majority of council agreed, voting four to two to move forward this year with the assessment.
Voting in favor were Council President Tara Grunde McLaughlin, Julia Woldorf, Sue Turner and Bob Szwajkos. Voting against were Marvin Cohen and Nicole Rodowicz.
In other action, council approved a change order to its 2020 Roadway Improvement Program that will decrease the total cost of the project by $9,723.75. The change includes the removal of seven crosswalks ($6,114 decrease) from the contract and the decrease in the unit cost for concrete curb at 214 N. Chancellor Street ($3,609.75 decrease).
“These crosswalks don’t exist today. It’s not that we’re taking anything away. It’s that we’re not adding anything,” said Turner of the change order.
Council also approved the appointment of attorney Russell Sacco as Special Counsel for the Newtown Borough Human Relations Commission at a rate of $180 per hour. The scope of representation will be limited to a matter currently pending before the Commission.
In other business, council approved a special events application giving Newtown-based BC Discoveries Dance and Theater Arts Company permission to hold a Halloween performance at Pickering Field on Saturday, October 24 from 4 to 5 p.m. The rain date is October 25.
Council also approved special event applications for BC Discoveries to hold a Kick Off to the Holidays performance on Saturday, Nov. 21 from 12 to 4 p.m. at Pickering Field with a rain date of Sunday, Nov. 22 and a Nutcracker performance on Sunday, Dec. 6 from 12:30 to 3:30 pm. with a rain date of Sunday, Dec. 13.
With many of its traditional dance venues unavailable, including local nursing and retirement homes, BC’s Kristina Tuxhorn said they are looking to bring their students out to perform while also giving something back to the community.
“We are a fairly large dance studio with over 300 students. To keep the numbers low, each class will be coming in one at a time to perform,” explained Tuxhorn. “They will also be dancing in six-foot socially distant squares.”
Under personnel, Councilor Rodowicz announced several open committee positions, including two on the Environmental Advisory Council, one on the Recreation Board plus a Secretary, one on the Shade Tree Commission, one on the UCC & UFC Board of Appeals and members of the Ad Hoc Traffic & Parking Committee.
Interested Borough residents should submit a letter of interest and a resume to Borough Secretary Judy Musto, 23 North State Street, Newtown 18940.
In other announcements, engineer Michele Fountain reported that her office has received revised plans for the redevelopment of the former Stockburger property at State and Court. Plans are expected to go before the planning commission in October.