RANDOLPH, NJ - Due to the many resident complaints regarding the Curbside Leaf Collection Policy, the council discussed revisions to the policy during the Thursday evening meeting.

Township Manager Stephen Mountain presented a memorandum to the council explaining the purpose of the policy adopted in 2005.

“The primary driver behind this policy, is the restriction of landscapers, contractors and lawn services taking the leaves and putting them to the curb versus the homeowner,” Mountain explained. “But at the time, in 2005 when the current policy was adopted, the new storm-water rules had been just promulgated and there was a fair amount of abuse by contractors of the service: offloading leaves from other communities and taking advantage of the fact that we still collect leaves at the curbside. The general goal at the time was to reduce the quantity of leaves that were placed there.”

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Since the policy has been in place, the council has received many comments from residents. Annually during leaf-collection season, Mountain receives a “steady stream of comments.”

“Making matters worse, over the years, there’s been a Hardship Exemption that has been rather liberally allowed for that gives individuals that present some form of hardship a way out of the restriction and use a contractor to rake the leaves to the curb,” Mountain added.

The council only discussed removing the restriction on contractors. The timing and other regulations must stay in place to maintain compliance with the state storm-water rules.

Over the past few weeks, Mountain has worked with the Department of Public Works to evaluate the current collection process and determine the added cost involved in increasing the amount of leaves collected.

Mountain also mentioned an important factor in keeping costs low would be ensuring that the DPW wets and packs down the leaves. The township pays for the yardage of leaves transported, not the weight of the leaves.

“If we go ahead with this policy, and that’s going to increase costs, we don’t want to compound that cost increase by not taking advantage of every ability to keep the costs down,” Mountain expressed to the council.

“I can tell you from canvassing for the campaign during leaf season, it was something that came up pretty frequently,” said councilman Lance Tkacs. “How can you argue with, ‘my neighbor pays the same taxes I pay’?”

Councilman Jim Loveys suggested encouraging the residents to bag leaves and added that the township may not always offer curbside collection.

“Today, we can absolutely afford to do [curbside leaf collection],” Mountain responded. “I cannot sit here and say that 10 or 20 years from now the community will be able to afford to do this. There may come a day when the only  way to do this program cost efficiently will be something else, whether it’s bagging or something else... As long as we’re still at the point where we can use this system, it should be equitable.”

Councilman Al Napoliello also agreed with changing the policy. “I have personally seen contractors bringing leaves out to the curb, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.

Mountain added that in their projection of costs, they realize they are already collecting leaves placed on the curb by contractors.

“There’s no doubt it’s happening, and it’s frustrating to those who are trying to follow the policy,” Mountain concluded.