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Lavallette Officials Debate Switch to Automated Trash Pickup, Tightened Rules

Trash and recycling cans beside a house in Lavallette. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Trash and recycling cans beside a house in Lavallette. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Automated trash and recycling collection is among ideas Lavallette officials are considering for the coming year, but elected officials are not in agreement on the proposal given its cost.

For years, Lavallette has struggled to handle trash collection during the busy summer season. Part-time residents and renters sometimes leave garbage in plastic bags out on the street, leading to flocks of sea gulls spreading trash all over the roadway, or loose garbage cans that fall over. Then, as homes have grown, so have the cans – some so large that it could be dangerous for workers to lift them.

While officials are in agreement that a problem exists, Councilman David Finter has floated the idea to automate garbage pickup. The borough would not have to replace its entire fleet of garbage trucks, he said, since there are add-on “tipper arms” that can be placed on existing trucks so they can lift specially-designed cans. But the “arms” do come at a cost of about $44,000 per truck.

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Additionally, each household would be given one trash can and one recycling can, either 65 or 90 gallons in size, and could buy additional cans for $50. As part of his plan, Finter suggested businesses that produce large amounts of trash – specifically motels and restaurants – pay a special $150 monthly fee for extra pickups, which are currently provided for free.

“I’m looking to pass an ordinance that they pay, maybe, a $150 fee per month to pick up the trash,” Finter said at a council meeting this week. “That $150 fee, over approximately three years, would pay for this. It would probably be the food businesses and motels.”

In all, the upfront cost of the program would run about $350,000 for cans and $44,000 to outfit each truck.

“The issues with the garbage cans go far beyond the cost,” said Councilwoman Joanne Filippone. ” What do you do with part-timers who bring out the 90 gallon garbage can and then go home? Who’s going to bring in that can?”

“Us,” a man from the rear of the council chambers replied, to some chuckles from other attendees.

“You’re talking about an extreme amount of money,” said Mayor Walter LaCicero. “Then you’re talking about just food guys getting charged, or the hotels. Hey, maybe a law office is throwing out too much paper.”

“How do you determine how much garbage is garbage?” asked Borough Attorney Phillip George, adding that it could be complicated to pass an ordinance that accomplishes exactly what was proposed.

Residents at the meeting appeared skeptical, especially after hearing the cost.

“It sounds like you’re going to spend a lot more money than you do now and have a lot more problems,” said resident Clem Boyers. “What’s broken with the system now?”

The council collective said it would continue debating the issue behind the scenes, and George will conduct legal research into the ordinance portion of the policy measure. But most on the council agreed that the amount of litter produced by unattended garbage cans is unacceptable. There is a chance the council could tighten its ordinances to require cans be put out and taken in by given times before and after pickup.

“People are putting them out too early, people are putting out bags and the sea gulls are getting into them,” LaCicero said. “If you get passed the cost, the next step would be to look at the ordinance.”

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