LIVINGSTON, NJ - The emerging dilemma concerning the elimination of backyard garbage pickup was discussed at the brief Livingston Township Council meeting held on Monday, May 24th.

Mayor Arlene Johnson announced that the Budget Advisory Committee would like to present their report to the Township Council on their findings about the impact of garbage pickup on taxes.

The Council, upon Township Manager Michele E. Meade's recommendation, found that the most responsible decision would be to keep taxes as low as possible. To keep taxes low (the Township controls 18 percent of the taxes), backyard pickup must be cut from the budget, the Council said.

Meade received a half-dozen calls from anxious residents, specifically from the seniors and the disabled, about how they will manage without backyard pickup. There are some points she suggests they consider:

How do these residents bring their recyclables to the curb?

And, is there a friend, relative, or neighbor who can help them?

How does Livingston compare to neighboring towns? "We're unique to this portion of Essex County because most towns abandoned backyard pickup years ago," said Meade. "It's a luxury." Maplewood has private garbage collection, Montclair gave up backyard collection, and South Orange and Millburn also do not provide the service.

A possible resolution may come with the new hauler. For an extra cost, the new hauler may be willing to provide backyard pickup services. Currently, there is no guarantee that this will take place since the new hauler has not yet been chosen.

Deputy Mayor Rudy Fernandez raised the issue of empty homes popping up across town. He says there is a house on the corner of Stonewall Drive and North Hillside Avenue where, "the grass is out of control and it's just a mess." Fernandez is unsure whether a bank took over the property or if the residents just moved out. This question of how to deal with empty spaces affects not only private residences but also large, out-of-business buildings as well.

The Big Box Committee, a subdivision of the Vision 20/20 Committee, met last week to discuss the conclusion of their project investigating the question of, "What can Livingston do with sites that have those big empty boxes," according to Fernandez. The findings surprised the committee. They showed that Livingston has been proactive with the properties by attracting activity and interest. The committee, which includes developers, real estate brokers, and members of the community, realized that their original question was incorrect. "The committee saw what the town was doing and how hands-on it was," said Fernandez. "What it all comes down to is the economy." A report will be issued shortly.

Councilman Stephen A. Santola discussed a corridor between Livingston and Randolph with many vacant residences. The mortgages of these homes were purchased at a significant discount allowing for much cheaper rents. The price per-square foot dropped from 25 dollars to fewer than 10 dollars, according to Meade. "This is good because they will be competitively bought," said Santola.

Looking ahead to June 7th, there will be a meeting held for a proclamation of recommitment to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mayor Johnson suggested that the Disibility Committee participate and feature some members of the community in the proclamation ceremony.