After debating the pros and cons of contracting garbage removal or keeping it a city-run service, the Princeton City Council informally approved keeping the service in-house.
Council members have heard proposals from Republic services as well as the LRS and will soon make a formal decision to contract one of these companies or purchase the necessary equipment to continue providing services through the city.
Mayor Joel Quiram shared information about the proposals for those unable to attend.
Republic offered a 10-year contract with three options:
1. Garbage-only service would start at $12.50 per month. The fee would increase each year of the contract, ending in 2032 at $17.78 per month
2. Aggregate garbage and curbside collection fees would start at $15.50 per month. The fee would increase each year of the contract, ending in 2032 at $22.06 per month. This fee would apply to all households in the city.
3. The same as the first, but selective collection would be a subscription service. Only those who want the service would pay for it. The fee would be an additional $6 per month on top of the garbage only fee. Curbside service would be every two weeks. These fees are subject to change depending on the number of participants in the program.
LRS offered a seven-year contract, which can be extended to 10 years. This proposal contains two options:
1. Garbage only at $9.50 per month. The fee would increase each year of the contract, ending in 2029 at $11.68 per month.
2. Aggregate garbage and curbside collection fees, starting at $15.50 per month. The fee would increase each year of the contract, ending in 2029 at $19.05 per month. The service would be every two weeks. Fees are subject to change depending on the number of participants in the program.
In order to keep the city’s garbage collection in-house, the city should purchase two trucks and garbage bins for each household.
“The main concern with private companies is that while the seven and 10 year contracts are good, we wonder what will happen in years 8 and 11 in the future,” Quiram said. “A new contract with new fees will have to be negotiated and that is an unknown factor. We don’t know which companies will be present in the future or if there will even be a choice of companies from which to obtain new proposals.
Quiram said Princeton would have to take on $800,000 in short-term debt, to be repaid over five years, in order to go its own way.
“We would also set aside $60,000 a year, so when a new truck is needed; in about five to seven years we will have the funds to buy a new truck, so no new debt will be incurred,” Quiram said.
Quiram said the city fee for garbage collection alone would be $15 per month. These fees would remain fixed, unlike Republic and LRS’s proposed plans to increase from year to year.
“Although our fees are higher than private start-ups, their fees are increasing every year; ours will not,” Quiram said. “Private company fees will eclipse our fees in about 5 and 6 years as our fees remain fixed.”
Quiram said the city would also offer curbside recycling, but the council is struggling to charge for it. There are two options:
1. Households have the choice to subscribe, which means that everyone pays for garbage collection, but the city only charges for curbside collection to those who wish to participate in curbside collection. The fee for this would be $3 to $3.50 per month, and that would be on top of the $15 per month for trash pickup. The $3-$3.50 curbside recycling fee is not subject to change based on participation.
2. Princeton makes it a lump sum charge, which means each household is charged a fee that covers both curbside trash and recycling, as it is now.
“With the second option, the exact figure everyone would be charged is not yet known, but the overall charges would exceed $18.50 per month, as we would have to purchase recycling bins for each household, instead of just the 40-45% of households, represented in Option 1, that currently recycle curbside,” Quiram said.
Quiram said garbage bins for each household would cost $205,000 and the second option, with recycling bins for each household, would double that cost.
Currently, the city charges an all-inclusive fee of $11.50 for garbage and recycling, while only 40 to 45 percent of households recycle curbside, according to Quiram.
“If we have a global fee in the future, and the fee goes over $18.50 per month, the hope is that it will encourage more households to recycle curbside,” Quiram said.
“Apart from all of this, selective collection is a convenience and is expensive. It adds to the wear and tear on the trucks, it’s hard on the tires and the brakes, and there are the fuel costs. And then there is the cost of the bins. It is a convenience for which we must collect in order to provide the service.
According to the city’s plan, the fee increases would take effect shortly after they were approved. When the trucks are ordered, the city will have to pay 1/3 of the deposit. A second payment of 1/3 will be due in a few months and the last third on delivery, which is expected in October or November.
Officials should order bins and any recycling bins will add to this figure; either doubling it with a blanket fee, or cutting it by more than half with a subscription service.
“Anyway, we need to start collecting fees now to make this program with the city work,” Quiram said.
Quiram said the city plans to informally move forward with a plan to maintain its own garbage collection operations.
“While it’s very easy to drop our service and go private, the city council is unanimous in wanting to keep the service in-house,” Quiram said. “Our goal is to have an order to increase fees in place for two readings beginning at our next meeting.”
Princeton will need to pass a resolution to incur the debt needed to purchase trucks and bins to officially move forward.
“Once the ordinance passes two readings, the fee will go into effect and the city will place an order for the trucks,” Quiram said. “It’s also possible that we don’t need to take out a loan for the full $800,000. Our tax revenues for the year are looking very good and if the numbers hold up, we will end the year with a nice surplus, which could mean that the amount of money to borrow could be reduced.
The next Princeton City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 7 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.