EMMAUS, Pa. - After learning it cannot legally extend its contract with Raritan Valley Disposal for another year with a discounted price, Emmaus borough council Monday voted 6-1 to seek bids on a new contract for a trash hauler.
Atty. Jeffrey Dimmich, the borough solicitor, advised council it legally cannot accept a better deal from Raritan Valley, which hoped to extend its current contract by one more year.
During the April 21 council meeting, an official from Raritan Valley offered a discount up to five percent if council would grant that trash hauler an extension to continue serving the community for one more year.
On Monday night, council members said Raritan Valley ultimately offered a 6.5 percent discount for that one-year extension.
Borough manager Shane Pepe told council it could extend its trash contract with Raritan Valley for one more year, but only if the price does not change.
By seeking bids for a new contract rather than sticking with Raritan Valley for another year, Pepe noted: "Our hope here is to save money."
Dimmich advised council "the way to go is to bid" – even though "it's expensive and a pain."
"There are two purposes for bidding," said Dimmich after the meeting. "One is to get the lowest responsible bid, hopefully a good price. The second is to get rid of any kind of favoritism."
Council member Brent Labenberg was optimistic that Raritan Valley, which has served Emmaus since 2011, will offer a similar 6.5 percent discount to win a new contract with the borough.
He said if other potential bidders know that, "it looks like we're going to be saving some money on our refuse bill in the future."
He added: "We usually have three or four bidders. I'm anxious to see what's going to come in."
Council voted 6-1 to advertise for bids for a trash hauler.
Pepe said council will review bids and select a hauler at its June 16 meeting.
Council member Brian Holtzhafer cast the only negative vote. He opposed one option in the proposed contract that would involve collecting household hazardous wastes four times a year.
Holtzhafer also was concerned about collecting trash from industries in Emmaus, something other council members said is not proposed as an option in the new contract.
It does contain an option that would include collecting trash and recyclables from commercial properties as well as residential properties in the borough.
"Only once the bids come back in will we know if these options are viable," said council member Wesley Barrett after the meeting.
Labenberg said the borough wants to get household hazardous wastes collected on a quarterly basis in the new contract. He indicated it would be a public service to help people get rid of materials such as paint, paint thinner and pesticides.
"People don't know what to do with it. We want to do the right thing so people have somewhere to take it."
But Labenberg also stressed that is only an option, one that will not be pursued if it becomes cost prohibitive.
Holtzhafer said he wants to see the option of collecting household hazardous wastes "gone" from the bid specifications, even if bidders come back with a low price to do it.
"I don't want to assume any liability for people's hazardous waste. I don't think we should do that."
The borough manager indicated the state Department of Environmental Protection has programs aimed at helping municipalities properly collect household hazardous wastes. He later added DEP closely monitors such collections.
Trash haulers hoping to win the new multi-year contract will be asked to submit bids that include picking up trash from commercial properties in Emmaus, which now is collected privately, explained Barrett.
He said not enough Emmaus businesses are recycling, adding less than half of commercial properties with dumpsters are recycling.
Barrett said having one hauler also serving commercial businesses will mean fewer trash trucks going through town. He said it also will be better for the environment because it increases recycling, which will result in Emmaus earning more credits from DEP, which will help reduce costs.
Emmaus gets a state refund based on the weight of recyclables it collects.
"The more you recycle, the bigger the return from DEP," explained Barrett.
But Barrett stressed finding a hauler who will do both commercial and residential trash collection is only an option worth exploring -- "not something we definitely need to do."
The borough hopes to locate other municipalities that have municipal trash companies that do commercial as well as residential hauling.
Dimmich said one concern about commercial trash collection involves
fairness-- how commercial customers will be charged.
He said 95 percent of refuse collection legal cases involve such fairness issues for commercial users. He indicated one business may generate a ton of trash a month and require a large dumpster, while another may generate only 10 pounds.
"That a very difficult thing to overcome and that's why most municipalities just don't do it," said the solicitor.
Dimmich said another concern is that when a borough gets involved in the collection of commercial and industrial wastes, the chances of getting sued under federal environmental laws increase dramatically.
He said if a landfill leaks, its biggest users are sued, who in turn sue everyone else who ever dumped material there. He said such cases can have up to 400 lawyers and the cost "is just astronomical."
Council does not intend to start collecting trash from industries in Emmaus.
"I would urge you not to get into the industrial," said Dimmich, adding he doesn't know any communities that pick up industrial waste. "Private haulers do that."
Allentown, PA 18102