PLAINFIELD, NJ — The Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority met Tuesday via conference call with its commissioners to discuss updates on finances and operations, and to talk about steps to take as municipalities gradually reopen for business. In advance of the meeting, residents received robocalls, both in English and Spanish, to notify them of the transition back to normal collection schedules.
Beverly Morris-Gills, CFO, discussed the current shortfall of $1.2 million due to lower residential collections from February to May. According to Gill, this amount represents fifteen percent of the Authority’s 2020 income. She anticipates that in the months ahead there will be a reduction in expenses, specifically payroll, healthcare costs, unemployment insurance and more.
Layoffs and furloughs through the end of the year will result in approximately $900k savings, according to Gill.
Claims and reimbursements for expenses related to COVID-19 are being sought under the Federal CARES Act, and the PMUA has been in negotiations with large vendors regarding payment plans.
Gill noted that disposal costs have not been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but volume has shifted due to an increase in residential waste volume versus waste from entities such as schools that have been closed.
Director Eric Jackson discussed the return to fully staffed offices with normal operations, planned for June 15, indicating the Authority is implementing steps for increased disinfection and steps needed for social distancing. He also noted the furlough period for all staff would end in order to implement the June 8 recycling, and a return to normal operations and collection services during the week of June 15.
Regarding the return to normal collection schedules, Commissioner Robin Bright suggested the Authority's opportunity to re-educate the public on the separation of recycled items, particularly with the continued COVID-19 crisis. Jackson noted the PMUA will employ social media, fliers and robocalls to communicate with the public, and will ensure that a robust education campaign is included.
During the past few weeks, in response to the pandemic, PMUA was operating on a reduced collection schedule; it had also suspended recycling, allowing the co-mingling of all items. In response to a resident complaint voicing concerns over the end product, Jackson defended his decision to co-mingle the garbage and recycling without the approval of the Department of Environmental Protection, and not receiving any direction from the State.
“I made the decision in the best interest of staff, safety first, community safety second, and we are back on track and the State is satisfied with that,” Jackson responded.
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Additional operational updates included the South Avenue capacity study that continues to suggest there is adequate capacity for further development on the South Avenue corridor.
The next PMUA meeting will be held via Zoom, and is scheduled to take place on July 7 at 6 p.m. Additional information can be found on the PMUA website.
Per the PMUA website: As we transition back to standard operations, please take note of the following important dates for waste collection in your zone: Effective Monday, June 8: Standard waste separation rules for garbage and recycling will be reinstated. Paper must be separated from commingled plastics, glass and aluminum recyclables; Garbage may not be mixed with any recyclable material. • East End Zones 3, 4, 6, 9 & 10 trash will be collected on Monday, June 8, and recycling on Tuesday, June 9 • West End Zones 1, 2, 5, 7, & 8 trash will be collected on Friday, June 12, and recycling on Saturday, June 13 Effective Monday, June 15: PMUA will return to standard operations as follows: • Plainfield residential waste and recycle collection will return to the normal schedule for all zones • Bulk waste collections and appointment scheduling will resume.
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