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Blue bags or carts? Neither option has been discarded


Petersburg residents will get to choose whether to haul their recyclables to the curb in a cart or a blue bag, following the Assembly’s approval of a resolution Monday night that provides for the dual program. The new program is aimed at maximizing recycling participants, some of whom favor the continuation of the blue bag program and others who’d like to see a move to a cart-based system.

The resolution that passed on a 5-1 vote includes all the elements of the initiative petition submitted by Angela and Wes Davis and certified as sufficient by the Borough clerk on April 15. It also included a clause allowing for the Borough to offer a cart-based system with collection performed by Borough staff in addition to the blue-bags, which will continue to be collected by a contractor.

The new contract will go to bid under the typical RFP (Request For Proposals) process starting next month, and whoever receives the bid award will be responsible for collecting commercial cardboard and paper from the Post Office in addition to blue bags put out by residents. The contractor will be paid a base rate for the commercial services and a fluctuating rate for the residential pickup based on the number of participants.

A handful of residents gave public testimony on the dual program before the Assembly voted. Several were opposed to the program, questioning the costs of a program that included such redundancies.

“I feel the resolution presented by the Borough is a gallant effort to appease the recycling community. Unfortunately, I find the attempt untimely, fiscally inappropriate and short-sighted,” said resident and business owner Catherine Kowalski.

“Proposing two recycling programs to appease the community members and department heads is irresponsible,” said Angela Davis. “Why pay for both when either one can complete the job?”

Charles Davis spoke to concerns that the split service would deter contractors from bidding at all.

“It (the contractor) kind of gets a small enough piece of the pie that it’s not really worth doing,” he said.

Resident Karen Malcom spoke in favor of a cart-only system.

“I’m in favor of just blue carts because I don’t want to see my garbage rate go up nine percent,” she said.

Sanitation customers will see a rate increase, but the amount of the increase is yet to be determined. The Assembly approved a 2 percent increase in 2012 (scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2015), but Public Works Director Karl Hagerman said that increase may be more depending on the cost of the contractor.

Before the vote, Assembly members discussed the resolution. Several reiterated that they felt the best move would be to a cart-only system, passed with a 5-2 vote on March 16, but spoke to their considerations in the face of the initiative petition and new resolution.

Assembly Member Jeigh Stanton Gregor voted in favor of the resolution, though he said it “isn’t ideal.”

“I think it’s the best way we can come up with at this point to keep recycling alive in Petersburg,” he said.

Hagerman echoed Gregor’s sentiment: “The dual method of collection is…a way to keep everybody recycling.” Hagerman said he was concerned about the public response surrounding the recycling program as of late.

“I was hearing more and more from people that were disgusted with this debate, that were turned off on recycling and, boy, that is the wrong direction for us to go,” he said.

Mayor Mark Jensen said the certified initiative “kind of ties our hands on how we can move forward.”

He ultimately voted in favor of the resolution, saying “I think I’m making a fiscally good decision for the people in this borough by voting for this and that’s why I’m going to vote for it.”

Member Bob Lynn was the sole opposing vote on the resolution. He cited concerns about the expense of running the dual program.

“In my opinion we need to go either one way or the other but not continue and break it up,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Lynn also opposed the purchase of a recycling truck at a cost of $207,476, though the purchase was authorized with a 5-1 vote. The money for the truck will come from the Motor Pool fund. The Sanitation Department contributes to their Motor Pool fund annually and will have a balance of approximately $349,000 as of July 1.

For now the clock is ticking on the recycling cart roll out. Hagerman said it will likely take six months for the truck to be built and delivered. In the meantime, the RFP for a contractor to pick up blue bags will be advertising starting early next month. The deadline for submissions is May 18.


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