Government

The Politics of Leaf Bags in Edison

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Credits: Edison Township
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EDISON, NJ – As fifth-largest town in state of New Jersey, Edison faces a multitude of problems ranging from millions of dollars in tax appeals, personnel issues within various departments, fires at facilities, aging fire equipment, lawsuits and a 12 percent tax hike in two years.

The resolution to fund leaf bags this year was voted down in a 3-3 tie vote Wednesday, effectively rejecting spending $65,000 for 200,000 biodegradable paper leaf bags through the Somerset County Cooperative, which has a low-cost purchase contract with supplier Dano Enterprises of Stamford, Conn.

Edison's leaf bags, through the Somerset County Co-op, would cost .325-cents apiece or roughly $1.63 for five bags.

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 “I don’t think its money well worth spent for leaf bags.  I think the $65,000 can be spent better somewhere else in the budget,” Councilman Wayne Mascola said.

An online comparison revealed the equivalent bags at Lowes sell for $1.98 and at Home Depot for $1.88, a difference of roughly $0.25 per five-pack.

The $65,000 cost was to be paid with money from a state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) grant that Edison receives based on the volume of recyclables the town annually collects.

“Some Council members may not have realized that the entire cost for our leaf bags would be paid with our state recycling grant, not with tax dollars,” Business Administrator Maureen Ruane said. “Their vote could delay Edison's timely purchase and delivery of leaf bags to our residents.”

One resident at the recent council meeting questioned spending money on leaf bags when the money could be used elsewhere and raised concerns over using township employees from DPW to distribute the bags when they could be doing other work.

Former Edison Mayor Antonia Ricigliano ended leaf bag program in 2011 saving an estimated $102,000 per year according to NJToday.net. In the same 2013 article, then Mayoral candidates Thomas Lankey said. “If all politics is local — then leaf bags are as local, as local gets!”

Lankey seized the opportunity to make leaf bags a 2013 election issue. In a Lankey campaign mailer it stated, "Ricigliano took away your free leafbags to save money! ... Tom Lankey will stop all that waste... And bring back your leafbags too!” In late October of 2013, Lankey gave away leaf bags as part of his mayoral campaign at Democrat headquarters in the Tano Mall.

Lankey is expected to ask the Township Council to reconsider the matter at its September 9 meeting.

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