WESTFIELD, NJ — Coronavirus may be keeping most people at home, but folks still need a place to drop off their yard waste. And starting Thursday, Westfield residents will again be able to do just that.

Nearly 500 people have purchased permits to drop off yard waste at the conservation center, which will reopen this Thursday and remain open on Thursdays and Fridays, Town Administrator Jim Gildea said at Tuesday’s council meeting held via the videoconferencing platform Zoom. The hours will be 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Gildea said that the town had relied on grant monies to fund the weekend staffing at the conservation center, but officials are now unsure that the municipality will still receive the grant. The $60 fee for use of the Conservation Center allows for residents to drop off organic waste such as grass, twigs, shrubs and small logs, the town’s website says. Gildea said that fee funds the cost to recycle those items and that he anticipates hearing back on the grant's availability within the next two weeks.

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For no charge, Westfield residents can drop off items for recycling, including plastic bags, plastic toys, Styrofoam, dry cardboard, leaves and certain other recyclables, the town website says. Click here for the full list and details for purchasing a permit online. Due to COVID-19, permits may not be purchased in person.

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Councilman David Contract, who chairs the public works committee, urged the public to space out their visits to the center. Officials anticipate there will be wait times at the Conservation Center.

“We will be having the police department there Thursday and Friday to assist the DPW, but we also need people to not all show up at 9 o’clock in the morning,” Contract said. “We need them to show up throughout the course of the day.”

The town has made no decision about the hours at the conservation center for the rest of the year, he said.

The town’s website says that the state permission for use of the conservation center is contingent on all social distancing requirements being met. Officials anticipate there will be lines.

“Due to social distancing requirements, we will be limiting the amount of cars allowed in the Center at one time, which will very likely cause lines to form,” the town’s website says. “Please be patient and follow the instructions of the DPW employees; in addition, please have all materials separated and ready for disposal to reduce public exposure.”

Services at the conservation center that have been suspended during the pandemic include the food waste recycling program and household bulky waste drop off program, according to the town.

Councilman Mark LoGrippo asked about the possibility of a reduced rate for Conservation permits in light of the reduced hours and services at the center.

Gildea said the reductions are temporary and noted that nearly 500 people have already paid the Conservation Center use fee.

“I wouldn’t recommend that at this point,” he said about reducing the fee.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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