Republican Point Borough council members are slamming their Democratic colleagues for considering in-house trash and recycling collection, accusing them of running "a scam to put Teamsters on the payroll."
Democrats contend that they, along with their Republican colleagues, are waiting for proposals from private haulers to compare to the borough's current contract and are still considering continuing to have a private hauler pick up refuse, as well as considering switching to in-house service.
Councilwoman Antoinette "Toni" DePaola acknowledged that no decision has been made yet regarding whether private haulers or borough employees will collect trash and recycling.
"We are continuing to keep all options open," she said. "But the significant delay in getting RFPs (requests for proposals) out, plus the lack of any real numbers for in-house garbage collection, has prompted the GOP to continue to reach out for viable alternatives."
In-house service would require buying trash collection trucks, cans and hiring more personnel, all costs the cash-strapped borough cannot afford, say Republicans.
Democrats, who hold a thin council majority, have been saying for months they don't care who picks up trash as long as it's the cheapest method.
Democratic Mayor William Schroeder said, "We are asking to investigate future savings. Everyone knows furloughs, layoffs will not carry us in the long run. Our thoughts and efforts are for the overall good of Point Pleasant. We are positive we can all work together."
On Friday, the Republican incumbents released a prepared statement titled, "GOP DISPUTES SAVINGS WITH IN-HOUSE GARBAGE COLLECTION - IT'S A SCAM TO PUT TEAMSTERS ON THE PAYROLL. TAXPAYERS WILL LOSE IN THE END."
While this is the first time the Republicans are releasing a strongly-worded, joint statement uttering the assertion that there is a Democratic "scam" to hire Teamsters, the assertion itself is nothing new.
DePaola had made the same allegation in a recent telephone interview and former Council President Susan Rogers had said in interviews last December that Schroeder promised the union jobs in return for their votes when he ran against Rogers last November.
Fred Potter, president of Local Teamsters 469, said in an interview last week, when asked to respond to DePaola's allegation, "That's absolutely untrue. It's not even close to factual.
"Yes, I've talked to the mayor because a lot of towns across the state, including Brick, have found in-house to be cost-effective," he said. "But a lot of the private haulers uses Teamsters too. Not the hauler the borough uses right now, but a lot of them do.
"This is not a union issue," Potter said. "It's an economic issue."
The Republican statement says: "DePaola disputes that Democratic Mayor Schroeder and Councilmen Leitner and McHugh have found any savings with taking borough garbage collection and recycling pickup 'in-house.' "
DePaola said in the statement, "I fear that this is payback to deep union pockets who have contributed to getting Democrats elected to this council and it will cost taxpayers dearly.
"DePaola vividly remembers that the real work to cut expenses and streamline efficiencies was done by former Mayor Martin Konkus and Council President Susan Rogers last year as they worked with Brick Township on crunching numbers and putting together a viable shared service proposal to collect garbage and recycling.
"This was to be presented in the 2011 budget cycle as the borough's contract with Waste Management would be expiring at the end of 2011.
"It all fell apart with this new administration, and Democrats intentionally sabotaged the consolidation of construction inspection services with Point Pleasant Beach and they wanted the Brick proposal to fail too," said DePaola.
DePaola elaborated by saying, "We, along with our taxpayers, have been intentionally left in the dark, as Democrats have been touting falsehoods of savings that are clearly unsubstantiated, as neither Leitner, McHugh or Schroeder is able to explain or detail cost savings in this in-house garbage scam.
"For months now, Mayor Schroeder and council members Leitner and McHugh have been telling the public that they see $400,000 to $500,000 in savings by bringing garbage collection 'in-house,' yet no one can produce documentation to show what is being saved and how."
Councilman Bob Sabosik said, in the statement, "All talk coming from the Mayor and council Democrats has been whimsical and superficial at best. I have asked repeatedly for the numbers and to be part of the discussions. I am a member of the Finance Committee and I am being repeatedly stonewalled."
Sabosik went further to say, "Costs of personnel are unknown, including salaries, health care, pensions and other costs. Also unanswered are the logistical questions as to housing of the vehicles, maintenance, gasoline costs, and the impact of insurance up-charges for these services."
Democrats released the following response statement:
"With the garbage collection contract getting ready to expire at the end of the year, Mayor Bill Schroeder has been working with the council to evaluate options to come up with the most cost-effective solution for garbage collection."
The statement said options include:
1) In-house pickup with 'robo-can' trucks;
2) In-house with rear-loader trucks;
3) Paying an independent contractor;
4) Shared services with a neighboring town, which could be done
in-house or by an independent contractor.
“It has been our position from day one that we will do a cost analysis of these four options and choose the option that saves our residents the most money,” said Schroeder.
“This has been an open and transparent process from the start," Schroeder continued. "We have shared all documentation and information with the entire council and publicly. For anyone to say differently would be patently false.”
“The preliminary analysis shows that there will be substantial savings by bringing garbage collection in-house, but if our analysis shows we can save even more money some other way, we will do it,” said Councilman Chris Leitner.
“We are continuing that analysis and will continue to make that information available to everyone once we have the data," Leitner said.
“Their team created the overall mess we are in, and we are looking for ways to fix the problems. It is unfortunate that they are playing politics rather than working with us to come up with solutions.” said Councilman Jack McHugh.
Democratic Councilman Chris Goss said, in an email, "All members of council have the same access to information and input from our employees. I'm not sure why council members DePaola, Remig, and Sabosik aren't conducting investigations of their own.
"They were all at the public council meeting in January when Mr. Sears presented his initial figures and any additional information is a phone call away," he said, referring to Public Works Director Dennis Sears, who presented what he described as a money-saving plan to use borough employees to pick up trash.
"I can't imagine why, when we should be opening the door to any and every potential cost saving, they are hell bent on closing this one?" Goss wrote.
"There is no harm in investigation and the public will have ample time to review ALL proposals," Goss said. "We have a responsibility to leave no stone unturned.
"These objections are nothing more than pre-election hot air. In-house collection is only one of several possibilities that will be reviewed. It's disappointing that these council members are spending their time making political hay instead of contributing their own ideas, of which so far there have been none."