SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – Township Council members voted, 3-1, Tuesday night to reject Republic’s new solid waste contract bid and its $500,000 increase in cost over five years.
Councilmen Charles Carley and Jo Hochman and Deputy Mayor Chris Killmurray all gave the bid thumbs down due to the large increase.
Meanwhile, Mayor Frank Gambatese was the only dissenting vote on rejecting the bid.
He said the only reason he voted against rejecting the bid was that he wanted Republic to know that the township has been happy with its service and he hopes they will bid when the contract goes out again, this time with modifications to the bid specifications.
Councilman Joe Camarota was absent from the meeting.
Governing body members expressed surprise and some disbelief since July when Republic was the only bid made on the contract, estimated by Carley during one such discussion to be worth more than $10 million over the five-year period.
Council members also suffered a bit of sticker shock when the bid included an increase of around $500,000, much of it in the early part of the contract.
For the last few months since the bid came in, the council looked at making garbage service “in-house,” and explored what it would cost to buy the trucks and hire the personnel to do it on its own.
Public Works Director Ray Olsen and Recycling Coordinator Bill Epps told the council that the enterprise would cost about $10 million in capital and salaries to do it during the council’s last work session.
In lieu of that, the council adjusted the bid specifications and will now put the bid out again, hoping for a smaller cost increase, members said.
During a previous meeting, Epps told the council that one of the reasons for the increase is the dropping market for the raw recycling materials like plastic and paper.
According to Epps, Republic was able to use that market in previous years to offset any increase in costs while carrying out the current contract.
Another reason for the increase may have to do with the number of new homes expected to come online during the next five years including an estimated 1,700 affordable housing units recently ordered by Superior Court Judge Douglas Wolfson, sitting in New Brunswick.
That edict comes down as the town fights the state’s affordable housing regulations and how it determines the number of units the town must build in the next 10 years.
The recent court decision, which Township Attorney Don Sears said will be appealed, mandates the units to put the town in compliance with what the court feels is the proper number for the township and region, according to Wolfson’s decision in July.
Carley has said the town should look at some way to have Republic get paid on a per unit basis if the number of new homes exceeds what is currently expected so they are not taking such a big risk with the bid.
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