Lansdale Borough is ready to talk trash – again – in 2012.
Administration and finance chairman Dan Dunigan announced at the council work session Wednesday that the committee will consider the concept of a single trash hauler for the borough, prompted by Code Enforcement Committee Chairman Paul Clemente.
“It’s widely used, and there are lots of benefits from the environmental/noise side of things to the impact on the streets with 35-ton trucks going down them,” Dunigan said. “Nothing is set in stone.”
The last time the borough discussed the single trash hauler concept was between 2005 and 2007.
In September 2005, the borough hired firm Gannett-Fleming to develop a Municipal Waste and Recycleables Collection study, which cost $17,500. Of that, $7,500 was a grant from the Solid Waste Association of America.
The study was a result of a series of public meetings in 2003 that determined residents wanted the borough to deal with the uneven, pothole-riddled alleyways, most of which are privately owned.
It was thought that the alleyways were deteriorating and in disrepair due to, at the time, the four main trash haulers that traversed the alleys to pick up trash twice a week.
The concept eventually died in the public works committee in 2007, according to a Sept. 15, 2007 article in The Reporter.
The chairman of the Public Works Committee in 2007, Len Schmidt, was quoted as saying the concept didn’t leave committee because “we didn’t find a benefit to the borough at large.”
Schmidt said a recommendation, as far as implementation, could not be reached, according to the article. Neighbors, he said, could do the concept amongst themselves. There wasn’t a pressing need for local government to be involved in it, according to Schmidt.
Fast forward to Wednesday night, where Clemente said he was prompted to bring up the concept again after several constituents have complained about damage to their alleyways. He said constituents believe the trucks are also causing disruption in their children walking to school, sparking concerns for their safety.
“I had a copy of the Gannett study and I did some research. We are one, if not the only one, of a few boroughs in Montgomery County that does not use this single hauler system,” Clemente said. “For public safety reasons, for infrastructure reasons, for environmental reasons, we considered looking into it.”
Clemente couldn’t think of a downside of a single hauler, after reading the study.
There are five main trash haulers that serve Lansdale Borough: Republic Services, formerly Allied Waste; Interstate Waste Services, formerly Ches-Mont Disposal; Waste Management; J.P. Mascaro & Sons; and Horizon Waste Service.
“I don’t know why it wasn’t pursued at the time,” he said. “The study done then was commissioned by the former manager.”
He said there are compelling reasons for exploring the concept.
“The whole point is to explore the possibility and see if we can come up with benefits to the borough,” he said.
Clemente thinks this is the right time to pursue the concept, since federal and state grant money has been drying up for roads preservation.
“There are some significant benefits if we do decide to move forward, if they are proven to be true,” he said.
There is one major issue with a single trash hauler that has plagued other municipalities that have broached the issue, like North Wales Borough and Hatfield Township – the freedom of choice.
Residents want the right to choose the company that hauls away their dinner scraps, dirty diapers and empty beer cans.
It was the same issue that the council five years ago was ready to face; they had opponents that hated not having competition, as there was the threat of higher prices and lower-quality service.
Clemente said he understood that point.
However, he hoped the residents know that council would not do anything to put an onerous burden on them.
“I filter any decision I make regarding the action of the borough through the lens of what’s in the best interest of the borough,” Clemente said. “There’s no choice in electricity at this point either.”
Trash has nothing to do with electric, but Clemente sees the cost and service associated with each being a common factor.
“It’s well known that we have the best electrical service in the area. I know that in several recent very bad storms we’ve been up and running for hours, and some people in surrounding communities have not been up and running for days,” he said. “I see it along those same lines. It’s just to explore the possibility at this point.”
If the concept moves along in committee, then there can be further discussions on how and when trash and recyclables will be collected.
“I think, by and large, the majority of folks out there would have to agree with the benefits of the program,” Clemente said. “If in fact we get to that point, based on research and the study I’ve seen, there are some compelling reasons.”
Discussion would begin in January with the newly-formed council.
“We will pick this up in January and continue the conversation in a robust manner,” he said.