CATASAUQUA, Pa. -

Catasauqua residents will save $18 on their annual trash bills, which will be sent out in January.

It’s possible those bills will be even lower in 2015 and beyond, predicted borough manager Gene Goldfeder. He said the annual rate should not increase in future years.

On Monday night, Borough Council unanimously approved a five-year, $2.74-million contract with J.P. Mascaro & Sons, which already has been picking up Catasauqua’s trash for the last five years.

After the meeting, Goldfeder said residents will pay $324 for trash collection in 2014, compared to $342 this year.

The price came in lower than the current five-year contract with Mascaro, announced council member Alfred Regits.

“I think the savings will be about $200,000 a year, close to a million dollar reduction,” said the borough manager.

Trash will continue to be collected twice a week under the new contract, which begins May 1.

Mascaro officials at the meeting thanked council and residents for the contract, saying the company has had an excellent relationship with Catasauqua for the last five years and they look forward to serving the community for the next five years.

Other topics that came up during the meeting included:

• A discussion about whether everyone living in the senior citizens high-rise building at Third and Pine streets can “self-evacuate” during an emergency.

• Council approved a proposal to sell swimming passes in December, as
Christmas presents, to promote the borough’s under-utilized swimming pool next summer.

• Council heard an update on legal action being taken against a local company responsible for debris washing into Catasauqua Creek in 2012.

• And it heard a plea from Catasauqua’s mayor to not reduce the strength of the borough’s police force.

Mayor Barbara Schlegel expressed concern that borough council might not replace police officers who leave or retire in the future.

She said several people have told her they heard council will not be hiring any new police.

“I hope everyone that will be sitting here for the next four years will take into consideration that, yes, the police are a big part of our budget, but it’s for the safety of our borough,” said the mayor.

She appealed to council to not reduce the size of the police force if someone retires. “Let’s move it forward as we have been,” she said. “Don’t go backward with the police department.”

Goldfeder later said Catasauqua, which has about 6,436 residents, has eight full-time officers and a dozen part-time officers. He said a new police officer was just hired two months ago and no hiring freeze is in place.

Seniors can’t escape?

On another public safety issue, borough Solicitor Jeffrey Dimmich expressed concern that some people living in Catasauqua’s high-rise building won’t be able to evacuate in an emergency.

“When that was built, it was built as a high-rise for the elderly,” said Dimmich. “It was not built as a nursing home. We need to make sure that this is rectified before something happens.”

“I don’t believe our firemen have the physical capability of getting some of those people out of there,” said Dimmich. Speaking to Fire Chief Richard Hertzog Jr., he added: “I know you would make an effort; I’m not saying that.”

Tenants living in the home must renew their applications every year and attest in writing that they can exit the building on their own power, said Goldfeder. He added that if tenants say they can walk out of the building, but actually can’t, they technically can forfeit their right to live there.

The borough manager said it’s a 75-unit, seven-story building.

“I would say somewhere around 100 people probably live there,” said Goldfeder. “As I understand it, the fire department has received complaints from some of the tenants that they can’t get down and out when the fire alarm goes off and they have to vacate the building.”