Trash-hauler J.P. Mascaro & Sons won a three-year contract to collect trash in Emmaus on Monday night.
The new contract begins Jan. 1.
Trash will be picked up only once a week, rather than twice a week as it is now.
Trash in the entire borough will be collected in just one day, explained borough council member Brent Labenberg.
Albert DeGennaro, deputy counsel for Mascaro, told borough council his company submitted an excellent bid that will save Emmaus more than $300,000 a year for three years.
“It’s certainly in your taxpayers’ best interests to take that bid and act on it,” recommended DeGennaro.
Mascaro’s bid is $786,836 for the first year, $790,560 for the second and $794,186 for the third.
DeGennaro said Emmaus is paying Raritan Valley Disposal, its current trash hauler, $93,000 a month -- $1,116,000 a year.
"You folks will save significant dollars,” he said.
Labenberg said he is supporting hiring Mascaro with the understanding that the savings will be passed on to Emmaus residents and businesses.
Council’s vote to hire Mascaro was 5-1. The sole negative vote was cast by council member Nathan Brown. He asked his colleagues to do the same.
Brown said he’s spoken to multiple borough residents who told him Mascaro’s customer service in Emmaus was not the best in the past.
“What I’ve heard numerous times is ‘whatever you do, do not let J.P. Mascaro back in’ even though they’ll save them a buck or two,” said Brown.
He said the residents with whom he spoke would rather pay more to be assured of a quality trash hauler. He suggested council hire Waste Management.
Council member Brian Holtzhafer guessed Mascaro last collected trash for the borough about 12 years ago.
“Could their business have changed?” asked council member Roy Anders. “Could they have different management? We’ve all had some bad experiences many years ago. Things do change.”
Anders noted many other boroughs are using Mascaro and asked if anyone had spoken to them.
“Twelve years ago, Mascaro was horrible,” said Labenberg. “Trash was all over the streets, barrels were not placed on the sidewalks, there were complaints galore. “But I agree with Roy that 12 years have passed and they’re the lowest bidder.”
Labenberg said the contract includes language that Emmaus can fine Mascaro if it is not doing the job properly, which he said he adamantly would support.
Borough solicitor Jeffrey Dimmich said the company also can be terminated if it does not uphold the contract.
Council member Jeffrey Shubzda said Mascaro once sued the borough. He didn’t know the details about that lawsuit, but said: “It kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
Borough manager Shane Pepe noted that could not be the basis for Shubzda’s vote and the council member agreed.
Dimmich said the contract had to go to the lowest responsible bidder, explaining “responsible” includes a historical precedence of not doing the job correctly, but he added that had to be legally documented.
Outside the meeting room, DeGennaro of Mascaro said it was unfair that Brown raised objections to his company at a point in the meeting where he could not respond.
He said Mascaro was last in Emmaus more than 12 years ago, but did not know exactly when its last contract with the borough ended. And he said the borough was given references by his company.
Raritan Valley, the borough’s current trash hauler, did not submit a bid to win the new contract. It also did not attend a pre-bid meeting with the borough.
Raritan Valley has been collecting trash in Emmaus since 2011.
Raritan Valley said start over
Before the vote to hire Mascaro, Andy Foster of Raritan Valley unsuccessfully urged council to reject the current bids and re-advertise for new bids.
He claimed doing so would save the borough money.
Foster argued there are legal errors and ambiguities in the borough’s “flawed” bid specifications-- including some that are contrary to Pennsylvania law -- which “created an uneven playing field and a lack of a common standard as to what every bidder was bidding about.”
He mentioned the possibility of lawsuit, which would have to come from a borough taxpayer, “if these issues are not corrected.”
“Re-bid this contract and give everyone a clean, fair and equal chance,” urged Foster.
Responding, council member Labenberg told Foster: “I don’t understand why you weren’t at the pre-bid meeting. That’s why we have pre-bid meeting, so you can ask about any concerns you have in the contract. Any questions you have you could have asked at the meeting.”
The council member also told Foster the contract he was “ripping apart” is the same contract Raritan Valley was hired under.
DeGennaro of Mascaro told council: “It’s a ruse to suggest there’s not an even playing field. It would not be fair to reject these bids. I think it’s sour grapes. They didn’t bid; they should have bid.”
Dimmich, the borough solicitor, told council that “perhaps” some language in the bid specs might have been clearer, but told council it would survive a legal challenge.
“Can I tell you that you won’t get sued?” said Dimmich. “No. You can get sued by anybody for anything at any time. But they do need to have a taxpayer that would want to come forward and make the actual complaint, because the company itself cannot complain about the bid.”
DeGennaro said Mascaro would join in defending Emmaus against such a lawsuit.
State money sought for culvert project
On another issue, council approved the borough manager quickly applying for state grants to help pay to replace a deteriorating culvert that runs beneath North 10th Street, just north of the intersection with Chestnut Street -- beyond the Advance Auto Parts store.
A branch of Leibert Creek flows through the culvert.
Pepe said the borough has been trying to do the project for about five years. “It’s a budgetary issue, but now it’s turning into a safety issue.”
“The pipe is collapsing, so the road’s going down with it,” said Holtzhafer.
Pepe said the culvert is a galvanized metal pipe that has deteriorated. “It is in very bad condition.” He explained the plan is to replace it with “an open-face cement culvert.”
He said council has budgeted $145,000 to do the project this year, but the cost has ballooned to about $200,000 because the entire culvert must be replaced and the road rebuilt.
Pepe said the Emmaus will only have to pay 30 percent of the total cost if it wins the grants.
The manager said the original idea was that another pipe could be slipped inside the existing pipe, “but we can’t do it; it’s too bad. It’s in really bad shape.”
“We’ll have to dig up the entire road all the way down to the creek---18 to 20 feet down,” said Pepe.
He said that project is complicated by the fact that water and sewer lines run under 10th Street.
He noted the street will be closed when the work is done and even the creek will have to be rerouted.
Because the grants won’t be approved until later this year, Pepe said the work can’t be done until spring 2015.
No tax break for yogurt shop
A motion to waive the borough’s business privilege tax for Mixies Frozen Yogurt Café died for the lack of a second.
The unidentified owners of the café, which is on the Triangle near Town Hall, do not want to pay the annual $150 business privilege tax because they say it is only going to be a seasonal business in the future.
But the failure of the motion means they have to continue paying it.
The yogurt shop plans to close Nov. 1 and remain closed through March 2015.
Holtzhafer said the relevant borough ordinance does not include a definition of “seasonal.”
He chairs council’s budget & finance committee, which recommended that council waive the yogurt shop’s business tax for 2014 and develop a definition for seasonal.
“Seasonal to me means Memorial Day to Labor Day,” said Holtzhafer.
The unsuccessful motion to waive the tax was made by Shubzda, who is on Holtzhafer’s committee.
Several council members noted the shop was open all of last winter and that they went there for yogurt during winter months.
Welcome to Emmaus
Council discussed the idea of erecting LED “welcome to Emmaus” signs along at least one of the three main roads leading into the borough.
Brown, who chairs the community relations committee, estimated one sign would cost $50,000, but council member Wesley Barrett thought that estimate sounded high.
Brown preferred the “hometown feel” of erecting “Welcome to Emmaus” banners rather than electronic signs, which would have changing messages.
“I understand the hometown feel,” said Barrett, “but hometowns have to change with technology over time too. LED signs are really where things are going.”
Holtzhafer noted electronic signs raise zoning issues, including the size and brightness of the signs, as well as how often the messages would change.
Brown said there is no money to purchase LED signs.
“Debating a sign we don’t have the money for is not worthy of our time,” said Holtzhafer.
Pepe said grant money is available for such sign projects.
Taking care of business
Council members also debated the value of having a town hall meeting between themselves and Emmaus businesses.
Brown said it would not be a gripe session, but council president Lee Ann Gilbert said: “That’s what it will turn out to be. Are you sure that’s the road we want to go down? We’re trying to develop a partnership with the Main Street Partners.”
Gilbert said she strongly disagrees with the idea, which came from Brown’s community relations committee.
Holtzhafer and Labenberg said that meeting should be held with the committee rather than with full council.
Anders, who made the suggestion, said he was only interested in opening up lines of communication, adding such a gathering would not exclude Main Street Partners.
Labenberg said businesses with concerns can contact council members or speak at a council meeting. “I don’t think we need a special meeting for it, unless they’re all in agreement that there is some major glaring issue -- and I don’t think there is.”
Also during the meeting, it was announced that Emmaus Community Day will be noon to 6 p.m. Sunday in Community Park. The free event, which includes music and arts & crafts, is sponsored by the Emmaus Parks and Recreation Commission.