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Standing room only for Bethlehem budget hearing talking trash

By Kris Rile, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Nov 27 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 28 2012 05:46:11 AM CST

Standing room only for budget hearing talking trash

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

It was standing room only in Bethlehem's Town Hall Tuesday night as the room full of residents prepared to voice their opinions about one particular budget issue.  City Council held their second budget hearing on Tuesday night to discuss the public safety and community development portions of the overall city budget.

Mayor John Callahan has proposed to City Council the idea of moving to a single hauler for trash and recycling throughout the city, similar to Allentown, but most residents were strongly against this proposal.

“This is not a hauler issue, we are not here to run down haulers,” said Director of Community and Economic Development Joe Kelly prior to starting his presentation to Council regarding the move to a single hauler throughout the city.

Several public officials spoke about the current negative aspects of the city’s garbage hauling system stating that garbage is the number one complaint throughout Bethlehem, with approximately 1,500 complaints last year.

According to the Acting Health Director Kristen Wenrich, the new system will already include large pickups such as sofas and mattresses in the fee that each resident will be paying.

Although the new system will include large pickups, according to Recycling Director Tom Marshall, only one bulk item will be collected at no charge per week. Marshall continued by saying that the single hauler would only cover approximately 24,000 households in Bethlehem and will not cover apartments or condos, which is about 5,800 households throughout the city.

Marshall stated that currently some residents pay an estimated $350 for trash and $60 for recycling per year and with this new system, residents will be paying an estimated $240 for trash and $60 for recycling per year. However, as Councilman David DiGiacinto pointed out, this new estimation is not definite.

“The $300 may be for the first year, but who knows about the next years?” questioned DiGiacinto.

Kelly pointed out that the administration would not be able to give a definite price amount per resident per year until they bid on the contracts next October and they cannot bid until Council approves the change.

Several residents, including small business owners and elderly residents, spoke against the proposed hauling change.

“If the system isn’t broken, don’t fix it and the system is not broken” stated Ferdinand Brenner.

Council will not make a final decision regarding the hauling system or any other portion of the overall budget until next month. The next Budget Hearing is scheduled for December 4 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.