Automated trash trucks coming to Upper Township

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Purchase to be included in $3.7M bond

UPPER TOWNSHIP – The nearly four-year debate over the future of trash collection here had one last wrinkle Monday, as township committee members reversed direction and decided to purchase automated trash trucks instead of rear loaders after the employees’ union dropped its objections.

 

In December, committee unanimously approved a plan to purchase three new rear-loading trash trucks, reducing the crew on each truck from three to two. On Monday, committee went instead with automated trucks, which require just a driver to operate. The trucks use a mechanical arm to lift and dump standardized trash cans into its compactor.

“After three-and-a-half years, we got back to where we started,” said Deputy Mayor Curtis Corson, Jr., a longtime proponent of the automated trucks.

“I guess we kinda have gone full circle,” said Mayor Richard Palombo. “We’re back where we started.”

But Palombo said the township made the right decision in the end. The automated trucks will provide the most efficient service and reduce employee injuries, he said.

“These trucks will be able to do more stops a day, they will increase efficiency,” he said. “We’ve also talked about safety and taking care of individuals.”

The employees’ union lauded the move as well, saying the automated trucks will reduce injuries.

“Safety was a primary concern for all of us and this change will reduce injuries and increase the efficiency of our manpower,” said public works shop stewards Roger VanOrder and Stewart Segin in a statement. “While this will be a change for all of us, this decision will provide the best service to all.”

Segin said over the past few months he and VanOrder asked employees to envision doing trash routes with the new rear-loaders, which would use a driver and one trash collector. The employees decided the automated trucks would be safer, he said.

“With the rear-loaders, you would have one guy doing most of the lifting,” Segin said. “If there were multiple containers, the drivers had no problem getting out of the truck but that was a safety concern too. They would be jumping out right into traffic possibly.”

The union argued against the automated trucks in the past, saying they would require more maintenance and could be cumbersome in parts of the township, but Segin said employees would make the system work.

“We have to work out a few kinks,” he said.

Township engineer Paul Dietrich said it will cost $1.4 million to purchase two new automated trash trucks, around 10,000 standardized trash cans for residents, and a new rear-loading trash truck to be used as a backup. The rear-loader will also be used to collect trash in Strathmere and pick up leaves and bulk trash, according to officials.

Public works supervisor Roy Shone said the rear-loader would work better in Strathmere because there are low hanging utility wires there that would make operating the mechanical arm difficult.

Around $380,000 of the purchase will be paid for through recycling grant money. The remainder will be bonded.

The township could cut its labor costs by $270,000 a year utilizing the automated trucks, according to a report by the Trash and Recycling Subcommittee. Township committee members have said there will not be layoffs, however. Trash collectors will be moved to other assignments when the automated trash trucks are operational.

But that will allow the township to reduce part-time hires next summer.

“We’re not looking at layoffs but in the long run we won’t need part-time people,” Palombo said.

Committeeman Tony Inserra said this year’s budget still includes four part-time employees because the automated trucks won’t be delivered until later this year. He would like to see those positions cut next year, he said.

Corson said the township will also see savings by not having to hire new employees.

“When we first talked about this five years ago, we said five to six people would be gone,” he said. “Well, since then we’ve lost five people (to retirement).”

 

Committee looks at $3.7 M capital bond

 

Committee members also discussed a $3,726,000 capital improvement bond Monday.

The most contentious item in the bond continues to be $1.5 million for road repaving. 

Inserra said he would like to see money for road repaving cut from the bond. The township should wait a year or two, when it might be in a better situation economically, he said.

“It’s not the time,” Inserra said. “One, two, three years down the line, yeah. We’ll be in a better situation hopefully.”

“The roads aren’t going to get better by themselves,” said Dietrich. “It’s been 2009 since we’ve paved a road.”

Dietrich said township roads are in deplorable condition. $1.5 million will repave almost 4.5 miles of roads, he said.

The last township-funded road repaving occurred in 2008 and 2009, Dietrich said. The township spent less than $200,000 each of those years, he said.

Corson said there is the risk that if the township waits too long, the roads will need more than repaving.

“If we have to rebuild them we are going to double the number,” he said.

A majority of township committee supported keeping $1.5 million for road repaving.

$300,000 for a new boat ramp at Bayview Ave. in Strathmere will also be kept in the bond. Officials said the township will charge a fee for launching boats when the project is complete.

$160,000 for improvements at Amanda’s Field baseball fields will also be included in the bond. But the township will apply to the county’s open space fund for money to complete those projects, a sewage pump, dugouts and fencing, as well as install lighting there and at the Somers Ave. baseball fields, said Committeeman Ed Barr.

“My feeling is we keep the funding in the bond but also apply for the grant,” Barr said. “If we get something through the grant that’s great but we should have two options going.”

Inserra objected to keeping the funding in the bond.

“If it’s there, we’re going to use it,” he said.

Corson said approving a bond does not mean the township will necessarily spend those funds. Projects must still be bid and a contract awarded before the money is spend, he said.

“This just gets the ball rolling,” Corson said. “We still have to go through the process of bidding and awarding a contract.”

Committee members agreed to cut $120,000 from the bond for repaving the Township Hall parking lot and a three-quarter ton pickup truck. They added $100,000 for a new roof on Township Hall.

Officials said they would have a better idea of the tax impact of the $3,726,000 bond next meeting. Auditor Leon Costello will have those figures available then, they said.

 


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