Raritan Valley Disposal wants to continue collecting trash in Emmaus.
Whether it does may depend on how well members of borough council feel that hauler has served Emmaus residents since 2011.
On Monday night, a company spokesman suggested to council that Raritan Valley may reduce rates as much as five percent if it grants the company an extension to continue serving the community for one more year.
“We like picking up your garbage,” said Joe D’Aniello, division manager for Republic Services, Raritan Valley’s parent company.
D’Aniello said he came to the meeting because council was prepared to advertise for bids to get a new contract for trash collection. If council intended to consider Raritan Valley’s offer, borough manager Shane Pepe recommended tabling action to advertise for bids to seek a new contract.
“We’re very willing to negotiate with the borough to extend this contract for the additional year,” said D’Aniello. In fact, he said his company is willing to look at reducing the price of a 2015 contract extension “anywhere from three to five percent.”
“Five percent equals $60,000, which I see as a huge savings,” said council member Brian Holtzhafer. “And it’s also a large time savings if we’re able to negotiate.”
Holtzhafer immediately made a motion to table putting a new refuse contract out to bid.
Council voted 4-3 to delay advertising for bids until it learns more about Raritan Valley’s extension proposal.
Voting yes with Holtzhafer were Nathan Brown, Lee Ann Gilbert and Jeff Shubzda.
Voting no were Roy Anders, Wesley Barrett and Brent Labenberg.
One key question, said Pepe after the meeting, is whether the borough can save even more money by bidding for a new trash hauler. He noted Raritan Valley could be among those bidders.
The borough manager said there’s another key question: "Is the community satisfied with the level of service we get from them?"
He indicated the feedback individual council members receive from residents could determine Raritan Valley's future in Emmaus.
Pepe said no trash hauler is perfect and there are complaints about all of them. He declined to offer his own opinion about the level of service provided by Raritan Valley.
Labenberg made it clear he is not happy with Raritan Valley’s service.
“I’ve been on council for 16 years and, as far as I know, we’ve never before had a refuse company not pick up trash because of the weather,” he said. “We had instances when there was only an inch of snow on the ground and they didn’t come and pick it up. Or they didn’t finish a route. They’d do half the route and then just stop.”
Pepe confirmed there were times when Raritan Valley did not finish a trash pick-up route due to winter weather. ”Would another hauler have gone down those streets?” wondered Pepe after the meeting. “I can’t say.”
“When they first started, Raritan Valley was a fantastic company,” said Labenberg. “But lately I’ve witnessed myself that they just chuck the cans. They’re not setting them down. I’ve witnessed it multiple times. With the round cans we have, when it’s windy they roll down the street or down a hill.”
Labenberg wants to seek bids, saying Emmaus may get lower offers than the three to five percent reduction Raritan Valley is promising.
Labenberg said the borough also wants to expand some of its services in a new contract, including adding quarterly pick-up of hazardous household wastes, which he said would be beneficial for residents.
Contract with Raritan Valley
Pepe explained Emmaus had a three-year contract with Raritan Valley – from Jan. 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2013 – with the option to extend it for two more years.
He said the contract was extended for 2014. Unless another one-year extension is granted by council, it will end Dec. 31.
The borough manager said this year that Raritan Valley contract is costing Emmaus $1.1 million, to have trash collected for its nearly 12,000 residents.
He said Raritan Valley collects garbage twice a week and recyclables once a week.
Pepe also said Raritan Valley froze its prices this year, locked in its fuel rate and is providing an electronics recycling box to borough residents for no extra fee.
D’Aniello said the company is willing to continue to lock in the fuel rate “so you’re pretty sure of your costs going into the next extension year.”
The Raritan Valley spokesman told council that Emmaus is one of only a few communities in the Lehigh Valley that has twice-a-week trash collection.
D’Aniello said Raritan Valley will continue to offer that twice-a-week collection “and get a rollback in your rate anywhere from – and I’m really going out on a limb here –three to five percent and locking in your fuel. I think that represents a tremendous savings to the borough.
“We’ll negotiate in good faith,” promised D’Aniello. “I think you’ll be very pleased with the offer that Republic/Raritan Valley has.”
Timetable for decision
Pepe said members of council have spent several months developing a new bid specification package, which he said covers 43 or 44 pages.
“Our current contract states that by July 1 we need to tell our current hauler, which is Raritan Valley, if we plan on making a move, which means we would need to get this out for bid in May, with a decision in June,” Pepe told council. He said council would vote on bids at its June 16 meeting.
The borough manager advised council: “We need to make a vote, one way or the other, on May 5 – whether you’re going out to bid or you’re staying with Raritan Valley.”
Council’s general administration committee, which is chaired by Barrett, will meet at 6:30 p.m. May 5 and make a recommendation to full council, which will meet at 7 p.m. that day. D’Aniello of Republic Services plans to attend that 6:30 p.m. committee meeting.
Said Barrett after the meeting: “In recent years, council has made a concerted effort to rebid all of our services -- to be sure we are getting the best rate for the services our residents expect.
“If Raritan Valley is interested in our business for a one-year contract extension I would see no reason that they would not be interested in a three-year contract.”
Currently, Raritan Valley only collects residential trash through its contract with the borough.
Labenberg said another goal is to eventually get all commercial properties included under a new borough trash hauler contract, because Emmaus gets a state refund based on the weight of recyclables it collects. “It would bring more revenue to the borough.”
“That’s one of the things in this contract that we would not be able to do if we’re just looking to renegotiate the current hauler,” said Barrett.
Progress on Indian Creek development
Also during the meeting, council had a first reading vote on a proposed ordinance creating a long-discussed Age Qualified Community Overlay zoning district on 12.54 acres north of Chestnut Street and west of Cedar Crest Boulevard.
That zoning change is needed to prepare for the development of Fields at Indian Creek, an age 55-and-older residential development planned by Kay Builders on the former Indian Creek Golf Course.
Atty. Tom Dinkelacker, the borough solicitor, reminded council it already has created an ordinance allowing age-qualified communities as a use in certain zoning districts in the borough. Council approved that zoning law in early September 2013.
Dinkelacker said this will be the first time the borough’s overlay district ordinance is being used.
The overlay proposal for Fields at Indian Creek now will go to both the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and Emmaus Planning Commission for review. The solicitor said the borough cannot give the overlay district final approval until the LVPC has the proposal for 45 days.
Most of the proposed 211-home development will be in Upper Milford Township.
Dinkelacker said a joint meeting of the Emmaus and Upper Milford planning commissions will be held on June 2 to discuss the Fields at Indian Creek project.
First reading of the ordinance for the Fields at Indian Creek project received unanimous approval from borough council Monday.
Dinkelacker said council will have to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance at one of its meetings in June just before it votes on final approval.