ROXBURY, NJ – Blue Diamond Disposal will continue collecting garbage and recycling in the township for the next five years under a contract approved tonight by the mayor and council.

The panel voted unanimously to award the contract to the Mount Arlington company with officials praising the job Blue Diamond has done for the past five years. They also cited the money Roxbury’s saved by privatizing garbage and recycling pickup in 2011.

That decision to stop using the township Department of Public Works for trash removal remains controversial with critics saying town workers did a better job.

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But Roxbury Manager Chris Raths pointed out that switching to Blue Diamond saved Roxbury millions of dollars and has resulted in very few performance issues.

“We’re very proud of the service that we provided with our staff,” said Raths. “We thought we did a very nice job.” However, Raths said Blue Diamond makes about 34,000 collections per month and receives only 10 to 27 complaints.

“When you have 27 complaints and you’re collecting 34,159 trash collections for that month, that’s a pretty good number,” said the manager.

The new contract, which begins April 1, calls for paying Blue Diamond about $9.87 million over the five years. The only other company to bid for the Roxbury contract - Waste Management of New Jersey - proposed doing the work for $11.2 million.

During the past five years, Blue Diamond charged Roxbury $1.7 million per year. During the first year of the new deal, it will be paid about $1.88 million. However, the fee will increase annually.

In 2020, Roxbury will pay almost $2.1 million.

The township’s main reason for privatizing trash pickup was to save money. In 2011, Raths estimated that switching to Blue Diamond would save the township $3.5 million over the 5-year contract period, a figure that did not include so-called “legacy costs” like pensions related to having town employees do the work.

“The cost of retirees or future retirees, commonly referred to as legacy costs, are becoming unsustainable,” said the manager in a memo to the mayor and council. He said post-retirement health care costs for the 16 town workers, who would collect garbage, would be $4.5 million to $8.9 million.

Raths calculated it would cost Roxbury about $2.4 million per year to do the work Blue Diamond is going to do for $1.87 million in the first year of the new contract.

Attending the meeting, Blue Diamond President John Shortino, a Succasunna resident, thanked the mayor and council and praised Roxbury Department of Public Works Director Rick Blood for the job his crews did removing snow after last weekend’s storm.

Shortino said Roxbury’s roads were better cleared of snow than most others.

“Operationally, we put 110 men per day out on the street and about 60 trucks,” said Shortino. “We rolled Monday morning through Roxbury. The streets were in great shape considering the blizzard conditions. It was not the same in a lot of other towns throughout Morris and Sussex and Warren counties.”

The snow-removal efforts of Blood and his team were also praised by Mayor Jim Rilee and the members of the council.