Garbage Contracts Increase In Two Towns

Meadowbrook Industries was the sole bidder and will continue to handle services for another five years. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  BARNEGAT/WARETOWN – Rising costs of garbage and recycling removal caused local officials to wish they could just toss the problem in the trash.

  “Marty (Martin Lisella, Barnegat Township Administrator) spent a lot of sleepless nights worried that when October 1 rolled around, we didn’t know who was going to pick up the garbage in town,” shared Barnegat Mayor Albert “Al” Bille.

  Ocean Township Administrator Diane Ambrosio said she could easily relate to her counterpart in the neighboring town. A proposed 74 percent increase in solid waste and recycling fees easily triggered a nightmare effect that required immediate attention.

  Meadowbrook Industries services both Barnegat and Ocean Township for solid waste and recycling removal. Barnegat’s increase was scheduled to be even higher, with a 40 percent uptick on trash and 114 percent increase on carting away recycling materials.

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  The existing contract with Meadowbrook ended on September 30 and represented a continuation of a shared service agreement between the two communities. The arrangement worked well for an entire decade. However, that’s no longer the case from now on.

  “We had two bidders when we made our last contract,” said Lisella. “There was no comparison with the other bidder as far as price when we combined with Waretown. However, this time, Meadowbrook raised the combined bid, and it was much better for us to do the single bid alone.”

  Both towns put out public notices announcing requests for solid waste and recycling bids. Ambrosio pointed out that these types of bid requests are subject to other requirements.

  “We had to make sure we followed what the law dictates as far as publication,” Ambrosio shared. “We are required to go with more than our regular official sources when it comes to advertising for receipt of bids. We also put a notice in the Star Ledger.”

  According to the state law found in NJSA 40A:11-23, bids for collection and disposal must also be published in one newspaper of general circulation published in the state. The outreach did not result in even one more bid.

  Meadowbrook Industries was the sole entity to respond to the request for bids. No one else attempted to take the business away from the existing contractor.

  The two township administrators considered moving operations back in-house as an alternate solution. Research proved the cost would be even more expensive.

  “First, there would be the cost of the vehicles,” explained Lisella. “We then factored in how many employees we would need to accomplish everything on our own. We would have to hire another foreman, another mechanic, and worry about fuel costs and employee benefits.”

  “Robocans would have cost $3 million more if the township did them,” Lisella continued. “No one responded to our request to include them in a bid.”

  When Lisella did a five-year comparison analysis without including additional workers compensation or the robocans, the bottom line was that it was $300,000 less to keep the outside hauler. Ambrosio’s calculations worked out similarly.

  Negotiation proved a critical step in coming to an agreement with Meadowbrook. The two towns asked the contractor to spread out the increases over the five-year period rather than load them on the front-end.

  “If we had the big hit in the beginning, we would have had to raise taxes by eight cents,” Lisella shared. “That would be $200 on the average home, and $400 for the people with above average homes.”

  Both administrators found themselves further confronted with another issue. Budgets approved to the end of the year did not allow for the significant increases proposed by the sole bidder. Meanwhile, the terms of the current contract officially expired on September 30.

Garbage and recycling waiting for pickup. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  “If we redid the contract starting from October 1,” said Lisella. “We would have had to pay $160,000 more for the first three months. We thought we were being generous by allowing for a 25 percent increase when we did the budget.”

  Ambrosio and Lisella credited Chris Dasti, the township attorney in both Barnegat and Ocean Township, for negotiating a successful resolution as far as delaying the start of the new contract.

  “Because we agreed to the five-year contract, Meadowbrook waived the increased fees to the end of year,” said Ambrosio. “This saved us $90,000.”

  The bid awards to Meadowbrook Industries in both Barnegat and Ocean Township break down the five-year aggregates with cost increases annually. It is unknown what number of units were used to appropriate per unit costs. However, the Barnegat mayor shed some light on recycling costs alone.

  “It now costs us close to $400,000 a year for just recycling,” Bille shared. “We get back just $30,000 in recycling fees.”

  In Barnegat, the combined annual solid waste and recycling cost begins at $181.92 per unit in 2022. Increases continue until the contract ends in 2026 to a rise of $240.60 per unit. The 2021 collective annual cost of solid waste and recycling was $117.88 per unit, according to a 2016 resolution.

  Based solely on per unit costs, the increase from 2021 to 2022 amounts to a 54 percent increase. Over the five years covered by the new contracted prices, the increase from 2021 until 2026 is more than an 104% increase in solid waste and recycling costs.

  “The increase should be minimized through our building of new homes in town,” Lisella said. “Every time we build a new home, the average taxes are coming in between $8,000 to $9,000. With us averaging about 200 homes a year, over the next five years, the increase should be minimized with the additional income and tax money we have coming in.”

  Ocean Township’s combined annual cost for solid waste and recycling starts at $154.44 per unit in 2022. With increases in between, the contract ends in 2026 with an annual collective cost of $230.88 per unit. Ocean Township’s 2016 resolution does not break down per unit annual costs. Instead, it lists a total of $330,701 for 2021 contract amounts.

  Both township administrators indicated that Meadowbrook Industries cited rising fuel costs and increased employee compensation as factors in raising prices.