Point Boro GOP Blocks Bond Ordinance to Fund Robo-Cans
Democrats claim move prevents council from getting new cans in place Dec. 31 when current system expires
The Point Borough Council at its meeting Tuesday could not take the first step toward possibly funding a new trash pickup system that might be part of a cost-savings plan after GOP members blocked the introduction of an $840,000 bond ordinance.
Council Member Mitch Remig led the Republican charge to block the introduction of the bond ordinance until the council had time to review the private trash pickup contract bids scheduled to come in Nov. 22.
But the Democratic members, including Mayor William Schroeder, said the first reading of the ordinance would have only put the council in the position to fund the potential “robo-can” system if it chose to go that direction in November.
The bond ordinance was struck down along party lines in a 3-2 vote. Republican council members Remig, Robert Sabosik and Antoinette DePaolo voted against, while Democratic Council members Christopher Leitner and Christopher Goss voted for it.
Democratic Council President John J. McHugh was absent.
The borough’s current contract with a private trash hauler is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, so the council has been considering either a shared-services agreement with Brick Township or hiring a private contractor to do the job in-house.
Having Brick pick up trash in the borough would require a new automated arm or "robo-can" system, requiring new cans for all households. Hiring a private contractor might also require the new system.
With a little more than two months until Dec. 31, Tuesday’s delay could leave the borough with insufficient time to get the new trash cans ordered and shipped to residents, a process that could take at least 30 days, according to council Democrats. A bond ordinance takes effect 20 days after its final passage, according to local bond law.
“We’re going to be in a position in January with no collection,” Goss said. “Where is there a warehouse full of these cans?”
“If we’re going to be paying someone $883,000 for garbage cans, I’m sure they’re going to have them for us,” Remig said referring to the total appropriation listed in the bond ordinance, which includes a $43,000 down payment.
The total includes the possibility of also changing the borough's recycling pickup to the robo-can system, but neither trash nor recycling are definitely switching to the automated-arm pickup, council members have said.
Prior to the vote, Schroeder urged Remig and the GOP to rethink their position.
“The thing I would like you to understand is if we don’t have this mechanism in place to get these cans ordered, with enough time to be delivered to every household, by Jan. 1, you will be picking a traditional private trash contractor to pick up your trash with a multi-year contract,” Schroeder said.
Passing the bond ordinance would only allow the council to use the money if and when it's needed in the future, when another vote would require actually spending the money, Schroeder said.
“The point you’re all missing is that this isn’t an ordinance to spend any money. But it’s step one in many steps that we’re going to have to take if we’re going to appreciate any cut in the cost of our trash pickup," Schroeder said.
Hiring Brick to pick up trash in the borough, which would require the robo-can system, since Brick already uses it, could save the borough roughly $320,000, Schroeder has said.
But Remig insisted on seeing the contract bids before voting on anything.
“To be honest with you, I can’t spend $840,000 on garbage cans before we get our RFPs (requests for proposals) back,” Remig said.
But passing the first reading of the bond ordinance would not require the borough to spend any money, Leitner said.
“This is not spending one cent. This is not spending anything,” Leitner said. “Now if we actually need one cent of any of this, we have to then have a purchase order made up, we have to vote on that purchase order and approve it, and then we actually have to go out to bid. So it’s two more votes.”
Remig said that he understood, but still wanted to wait for the bids to come in before even beginning to authorize any kind of spending.
“I understand the process, and thank you for educating the public, but I cannot say yes right now to spending. I know it’s not actually spending until we spend it, but it’s still authorizing to spend. It puts a bad taste in people’s mouths until we find out these RFPs that come back,” Remig said.
Letiner said the borough did not have time to wait for the bids to come in Nov. 22.
“We have to set this up in advance. And on Nov. 22 we have to be ready to move,” Leitner said.
Sabosik chimed in that the borough had a 30-day extension option in its current trash pickup contract that could buy the council some more time.
Schroeder fired back that the Republicans were not planning ahead.
“As a municipal government and a representative of the people your job is to plan ahead,” Schroeder said. “It’s not putting the mechanism in place to carelessly or irresponsibly spend any money, but you’re putting the mechanism in place to possibly save the borough a significant amount of money in the budget of 2012 and from then on. That’s clearly the point.”
Remig replied that the council had not adequately planned ahead by waiting for Nov. 22 for the bids to come in. Schroeder said the council must deal with the situation as is and not dwell on how things played out.
“See, there’s two ways to handle it; as an adult and suggest that this is the way it’s playing out, or as a juvenile and say they didn’t do it right so I’m going to do it wrong, too,” Schroeder said.
With a supermajority, or a 4-2 vote, needed to pass a bond ordinance, the council could have voted to approve the first reading Tuesday and the three Republicans could have voted no on its second reading if they were still not happy once the bids came in, Schroeder said.
“You need a super majority to pass a bond ordinance. So you have the safety valve,” Schroeder said.
After the meeting adjourned, the argument continued for several minutes between mostly Schroeder and Remig, but Goss, Leitner and Sabosik also contributed until each member trickled one-by-one out of borough hall.