SOMERSET, NJ - Earlier this week Mayor Phil Kramer provided insight into what is delaying storm debris pickup, and during Tuesday's Township Council meeting, Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) asked Township Manager Robert G. Vornlocker if contractors should be hired. 

Vornlocker doesn't think so, because he feels the inclement weather which plagued the region in March and early April is behind us, and the Public Works Department has been able to double capacity. 

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"We’re running two full crews with two full complements of vehicles to take the debris back and forth," Vornlocker said. That means we’ve increased our productivity with the additional trucks from about 50 truckloads a day running back and forth to about 100 truckloads, so we’ve just about doubled our cleanup effort per day. We’re going to continue to run those crews till 5 p.m. every day, and we’re going to continue to run two crews on Saturdays."

Vornlocker also said the cleanup is coming at "great expense" to the township but didn't put a number on it. He also put the cleanup effort on par with Hurricane Sandy.

“With Hurricane Sandy, we did an emergency appropriation of $300,000 for additional trucks to transport this debris and contracted with a local landscape company to do the cleanup,” he said. “The reason we did that then was that the debris was not only in people’s backyards as an inconvenience, it was across roads throughout the town, where it was a matter of emergency and necessity.”

Vassenella praised the DPW staff, but asked if real progress isn't made within the next week, should the township consider hiring outside help. 

"I’m just wondering at this point if we need to bring in some outside contractors so we don’t put extraordinary pressure on DPW and get it to where the springtime endeavors they have to get to don’t get postponed too long into the future," Vassanella said. "Obviously, we’re all waiting for this spring more than most other years with the more than usual bad weather in March and April... Maybe we reached a turning point." 

Vassennalla cited possible health hazards and possible violations of current ordinances and asked for feedback from other council members. 

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Vornlocker said. “I told you that I don’t believe that it constitutes a hazard, I respectfully disagree with the councilman. It’s not the entire public works department out there, and I anticipate that it will be done hopefully within the last week of April, the first week of May. But people have woodpiles throughout the town that is the same material that sits for their fireplaces year-round. I don’t think that sticks on the side of the street constitute a health hazard, so I don't believe it is a necessity to bring in outside contractors."

Councilwoman At-Large Kimberly Francois (D) asked: "is their anyway that they (DPW) can prioritize areas that are hit really bad?"

According to Vornlocker, the Public Works Department is currently operating in the hardest hit section of town. Vornlocker also gave details of the randomness of the project and to make sure things are fair.

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