Trash collection changes are coming for residents of Salisbury Twp., Lehigh County.
A contract with Waste Management, the company that's been hauling the township's trash for the last six years, ends June 30.
The township soon will have to seek bids for a new contract.
Possibilities for the future include higher rates, having trash collected only once a week, and/or having an "automated" system where all residents are given standardized trash containers that can be picked up by garbage trucks.
Township manager Randy Soriano says it's too soon to say how much trash rates will increase when a new contract is signed with a trash hauler.
But he suggested rates probably will be lower if trash is collected only once a week, rather than twice a week as it is now. He cited one example where a municipality saved 30 percent by having trash only collected once a week.
"We should explore all the options--and all associated costs," recommended township commissioner Robert Martucci Jr. on Thursday night, when the five commissioners discussed the future of trash collection during their workshop meeting.
Unfortunately, the commissioners could not get much public feedback on the issue. In a township with about population of about 13,500 residents, only one resident attended their meeting --- as did three reporters.
When Soriano asked commissioners what they want to do about future trash collection, none objected to going to once-a-week trash pickup.
The manager said Salisbury, Allentown and Fountain Hill "might be the last dinosaurs around" that still have twice-a-week trash collection.
Acknowledging "change is always hard to do," Soriano said some people are accustomed to putting out their trash twice a week.
He said the bidding companies can be asked to provide costs for both once-a-week and twice-a-week trash collection.
Soriano said residents have been paying the township $340 a year for trash collection for the last six years.
Commissioner Debra Brinton said she's very happy with the service provided by Waste Management. "They do a good job. "
Soriano agreed, indicating the township gets very few complaints about the service.
Brinton asked if Salisbury can just renew its contract with Waste Management rather than seeking bids for a new contract. Soriano told her that's not an option.
"We are required to pick the lowest responsible bidder," said the township manager.
But he expects Waste Management to be among the haulers bidding on a new contract.
He said Salisbury had an initial three-year contract with Waste Management, which was extended for an additional three years. He later said that contract cost the township $1.5 million a year.
"Whoever bids on this, Waste Management will have an advantage for obvious reasons," said Soriano. "They've been collecting for six years and they know the routes."
He added that doesn't mean another trash hauler won't try to under-bid Waste Management. "They always do that."
The township manager told commissioners that automated collection systems save trash haulers money -- because they don't have to pay workers to jump off trucks to pick up and dump trash cans into them - and suggested that savings should be passed on to Salisbury residents if the township decides to go that way.
Brinton was concerned about people having to put all trash into bins - one for garbage and another for recyclables. "What happens to the stuff they can't get into the bins?" she asked. "I like the fact that I can put out what I want and they take it."
Ninety-six gallon trash bins are a possibility, although smaller bins would be offered to residents who generate less trash. And people who generate more trash could purchase additional trash containers.
Atty. John Ashley, the township solicitor, said South Whitehall Township paid to provide all its residents with one recycling bin and one trash bin. People had the option to get smaller containers or to pay for additional containers.
Soriano estimated if Salisbury pays to provide two free trash containers with wheels to each of the 5,000 homes in the township, the cost could be $300,000.
Township officials discussed the possibility that automated pick-ups might not even be feasible, especially in mountainous eastern Salisbury, where many roads may be too small for such trash trucks to negotiate.
Brinton questioned whether those trucks could do the job without taking down utilities lines when they lift trash containers to dump them.
Soriano said he's not advocating going to an automated collection, only advising commissioners that it's an option.
He stressed automated pick-up also is not related to whether or not the township decides to go with once-a-week trash pick-up.
The manager said sections of the township's solid waste ordinance need to be modified before it seeks bids, saying that's not been done since 1990.
Lehigh Street improvements
During the commissioners meeting before the workshop, Salisbury police chief Allen Stiles announced the township and Emmaus, its neighboring borough to the south, are working together on a Lehigh Street traffic signal improvement project.
Stiles said the goal is to upgrade signalized intersections and coordinate traffic lights at all the intersections "so they are changing in sequence, which will increase traffic flow, making it both easier and quicker. There won't be so much stop-and-go traffic once we're done with that."
But he warned that, after the study phase of the project is completed, it may take two years for all the traffic signal improvements to be made.
Stiles said the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and PennDOT are involved in the project, which already has begun.
Only abut a half-mile-long section of Lehigh Street is in Salisbury.
Stiles said the only Lehigh Street traffic signals within the township are at 33rd Street, Regent Way and Bevin Drive.
The chief said most of the project area is in Emmaus. When Lehigh Street gets to Emmaus, it becomes State Avenue, then Main Street, then Chestnut Street.
Stiles said the traffic signal improvements will go all the way through Emmaus to the intersection of Chestnut Street and Cedar Crest Boulevard.
The chief said a similar project was done with PennDOT and the planning commission on Cedar Crest Boulevard in Salisbury four years ago, which resulted in upgrading those traffic signals and coordinating their timing. "It helped us a great deal," said Stiles.
Bike lanes being planned
Commissioners authorized the township manager to seek a state grant to install bicycle lanes that would connect Green Acres Park and Lindberg Park in western Salisbury.
The proposed bike lanes would begin at Newgate Drive, go west on Lindberg Avenue past Lindberg Park, then north on Flexer Avenue and east on Green Acres Drive to Green Acres Park.
Soriano said it's a 1.5 mile-long bike lane path.
If the township wins the grant, five-foot-wide bike lanes will be marked off with paint in both directions of Lindberg and Flexer avenues. He said the driving lanes on those two roads will be reduced to 10 feet wide.
Soriano said Green Acres Drive will only get bicycle logos - called sharrows -- on the road surface, not the five-foot-wide bike lanes.
He said the proposed project includes adding sidewalks and curbs where needed along Flexer Avenue, but not along Lindberg Avenue. He indicated tiny Louise Lane Park also is in that area of the township.
The manager stressed the project is only in its conceptual stage and will be further developed if the township wins the grant and hires an engineer.
That proposed project will cost about $396,000. Soriano indicated 80 percent of that money will be provided through a state PennDOT grant that will be used to make the improvements.
He said the other 20 percent, needed for engineering costs, will be the township's responsibility.
That grant is available through PennDOT's Transportation Alternative Program. He indicated the grants are awarded locally by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
Soriano is not sure when the township will find out if it wins the grant, but it could be by late June. He said if it doesn't win the grant until autumn, those improvements might not be made until the spring of 2015.
Grant requests for parks
Commissioners also authorized Soriano to apply for two state grants aimed at improving parks.
One grant would help pay to develop a master plan for Laubach Park in eastern Salisbury, similar to one done several years ago in Lindberg Park in western Salisbury.
The Lindberg Park plan led to multi-million-dollar improvements being done over a 10-year-period. A perimeter trail will be installed around that 20-acre park this year.
The other grant being sought would help to install a new network of handicapped accessible pathways within Lindberg Park, along with restoring vegetation to beautify the park.
Soriano said grant requests for both projects will be submitted by April 16 to the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which should award grants by late fall.
He said developing a master plan for Laubach Park will involve hiring a consultant, forming a committee, encouraging resident participation and holding public hearings. He said it takes about eight months to develop such a plan. `
"A master site plan is a picture of what you want the park to be," said Soriano. "You analyze existing uses and future uses of that park."
He said Laubach currently has amenities that are not handicapped accessible, a baseball field that's also a football field and a pond that probably needs to be upgraded.
The manager said developing that master plan will cost $48,000 to $50,000. He said the state will provide half the money and the township must provide the rest.
He said the trail improvements in Lindberg Park will cost about $340,000. That state grant also would cover half that cost and the township would be responsible for the other half.
"We are exploring partners for this," said Soriano. "We would like to reach out to businesses and institutions in our township that are willing to fund this. We are meeting with the [Lehigh Valley] Hospital on Monday. Hopefully they will help us in constructing these trails because it does lead to a healthy community."