Sweeping Changes To DPW Proposed
Town officials want to restructure Public Works in a $3 million plan that would change garbage and brush pick up
Tree trimming. Painting. Filling potholes, mending drain pipes, clearing retention ponds.
The list of tasks that the 50-some member Department of Public Works is falling behind in is long, township officials from inside and outside the department said at Wednesday’s Township Committee meeting.
So in an effort to get more done with the same number of people, or fewer, Public Works officials along with Township Administrator Jeffry Bertrand have come up with a $3.5 million restructuring plan they say would streamline the department and raise the level of service in all areas of public works.
The result, Bertrand said, would be a far more efficient Public Works department able to allocate its resources to the long list of tasks it cannot perform adequately, mired as it is in the garbage and brush disposal.
“We’re just not getting things done that need to be done,’’ Bertrand said. “And that’s not acceptable.’’
The plan would do away with labor-intensive garbage pick-up as it currently exists today, require residents to do more to prepare brush for pick-up and outsource some grass-cutting services, among other changes presented in the sweeping restructuring of the department’s duties.
Following the presentation, which lasted more than an hour, Township Committee members agreed that the restructuring was needed. No decision was made Wednesday, however.
“I think this shows real leadership,’’ Mayor Jeffrey Foster said.
The pitch for the restructuring is scheduled for a repeat at the committee’s Sept. 12 public meeting. Committee members would then have to give it their blessing, and measures to purchase the equipment necessary to make it work would have to be introduced and voted on. No action is expected at the Sept. 12 meeting.
Bertrand said the new system could be running by May, with the committee’s approval.
Under the plan:
- Garbage collection would move to once weekly and would be done by automated trucks;
- Garbage cans, purchased by the town and distributed to residents, would hold a capacity of 96 gallons, more than twice the current 45-gallon capacity allowed;
- The recycling schedule would remain at twice a month and 96-gallon cans would be purchased by the town and distributed to residents;
- Brush would be collected only May, June, August and October;
- Brush would have to be cut to particular lengths – size to be determined – and bound before pick-up;
- Bush pick up would no longer be done by use of front loaders. It would be done by hand
- Public works would add janitorial services and ground maintenance of the municipal complex, but would outsource grass-cutting in the summer.
The plan would save employees thousands of work hours a year – hours that could be used to attend to tree trimming and other needed tasks in the town, Bertrand said.
“We think it’s a good plan,’’ he said. “We hope you think it’s a good plan.’’
In total, the restructuring would cost about $3.3 million, Bertrand said.
The town would need to buy seven automated garbage trucks — five for garbage, two for recycling and one as a backup for the others in case of maintenance or repair. Each truck costs about $275,000, for a total of about $1.925 million, he said.
The town would also need to purchase about 9,400 garbage cans and the same number of recycling cans at a cost of about $55 each, for a total of about $1.03 million, he said.
The town would also buy several thousand additional garbage and recycling cans, offered for purchase by residents for half the town’s cost, if a homeowner is in need of a second or third can. That would cost about $96,000, if they all sold out to residents, Bertrand said.
There also would be a cost of nearly $200,000 to outsource the summer grass cutting the plan proposes.
No Public Works positions would be eliminated under the proposal. Two positions – employees who plan to retire – would not be replaced, Bertrand said. If other positions become vacant, the administration would discuss on a case-by-case basis what was to become of those vacancies, he said.
The current garbage collection system uses four trucks and eight employees, Bertrand said.
'Residents are going to see an improvement'
Under the proposal, garbage collection would move to automated trucks — sometimes called “one-arm bandits’’ — which require only one employee. Those trucks would pick up 1/3 of the town a day, Bertrand said.
The changes to the brush pick-up would be borne mainly by residents, Bertrand said. Homeowners would have to cut and bind their brush before Public Works would pick it up.
It is necessary, however, because employees are spending large amounts of time picking up brush when they could be performing other tasks, Bertrand said.
“We’re asking that if you do this,’’ Bertrand said. “We can go do some of the things that are slipping through the cracks.’’
Members of the committee seemed keen on Bertrand’s idea.
“I know that we need to do things better,’’ Committeewoman Ann Marie Conte said. “I know we can do things better, and I think this is a clear example of what we need to move forward with, in some fashion, quickly.’’
"This is a long time coming for me,’’ Foster said. “It’s going to be an improvement, on everything. Residents are going to see an improvement next summer. They’re going to be real happy.”