South Brunswick Council May Trash Waste Disposal Bid

Township Council members talk to senior staff about bringing garbage collection "in-house." Credits: Charles W. Kim photo

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Township Council members are likely to trash the new bid for a five-year solid waste contract when they meet next Tuesday.

During this Tuesday night’s work session, the council discussed the one bid it received for a new solid waste contract from Republic, carrying around a $500,000 increase in cost for services.

Members said while they are pleased with the service Republic provides the township, the large increase in cost is hard to justify.

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“I won’t be prepared to support (that bid) at the next meeting,” Councilman Charles Carley said. “I’m not ready to commit to that (price) jump up.”

Other members agreed.

“This is not a sweetheart deal by any means,” Councilman Joe Camarota said. “I don’t think we need to commit ourselves to this.”

Republic was the only company to respond to the bid when it closed in July.

With the likelihood of rejecting the bid, details of which cannot be made public until the council acts on the proposal according to officials, council members discussed bringing the service “in-house” with senior staff during the meeting.

Recycling Coordinator Bill Epps presented information to the council, along with Public Works Director Ray Olsen, about outfitting the township to take on the garbage and recycling collection job.

Epps estimated that it would cost around $10 million to outfit and collect the trash for a year, with $8 million going to buy the equipment and buildings needed and the other $2 million for payroll in hiring drivers.

Camarota said the $8 million outfitting number could amortized over 10 years, making the annual cost for the service about $2.8 million, which he said is the same as the fourth and fifth year of the proposed contract.

Olsen, however, said that many towns that have their own garbage collection service are now looking to “get out of the garbage business,” instead of getting into it.

One reason members speculated for the increase could be the risk taken on by Republic of having to collect new homes as they come online during the period.

Recently the township took a hit on its affordable housing lawsuit by Superior Court Judge Douglas Wolfson, sitting in New Brunswick, ordering the township to build 1,500-1,700 affordable units as its obligation under the affordable housing laws.

“Maybe they see a ‘Wolfson bubble’ (in new housing not currently in the bid specifications),” Carley said.

Carley then asked the staff to see if the contract could be re-bid using a per home rate that could increase should the number of new units rise over the planned rate in the specifications to reduce the risk to Republic.

Carley and Camarota said that the town should pursue a “dual track” of researching the in-house possibility as well as possibly adding that risk factor reduction to a new proposal.

Officials estimate that it costs the township about $158 per single-family household to pick up the waste.

Mayor Frank Gambatese said that the figure is about twice that for several surrounding communities and wondered what the amounts were for those contracts, if the unit cost is twice what South Brunswick’s is.

Olsen, using neighboring Franklin Township as an example, said that residents are “at the mercy” of the waste companies as far as pricing goes, with each home cutting its own deal with the companies.

In previous discussions on the topic since the bid came in at the end of July, council members wondered why only one company responded to the bid and even contacted some companies to try and find out why they did not submit a bid for the contract, which is around $10 million over a five-year period.

Officials said they did not get any responses to the inquiry.

Township Attorney Don Sears said the governing body needs to either accept or reject the bid by next Tuesday night, especially if it decided to reject the proposal and go out to bid again with a modified agreement.

Towns have 60 days from the date the bid is opened to act on it, he said.

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