Brush collection in Lawrence Township would be scaled back and pickups eliminated during six months of the year under a proposal that was unveiled at Tuesday evening’s (June 19) Lawrence Township Council meeting.
With the township still needing to cut more than $1 million from its budget going into 2013, the revised brush collection scheme was one of several cost-cutting options that were discussed at the meeting.
Also discussed were the possible sale of township-owned properties – including a number of small lots acquired by the municipality over the years through foreclosures – and increases in some of the fees the township charges.
No formal action was taken Tuesday on the proposals. Additional discussion about how municipal expenditures can be reduced in the coming year is planned for the next council meeting to be held July 17. Among the topics to be discussed that night will be the township recreation department.
“Moving forward with the 2013 budget discussion, for the next meeting – and I’ve already mentioned this to Mr. [Steve] Groeger [recreation department supervisor] – I would like to schedule a detailed discussion on the recreation program and how we may want to consider that program going forward in the future,” Township Manager Richard Krawczun explained to council members during the meeting. “I will also advise the council at that time – we are working on some changes to services that will have to occur in the health department.”
(Audio of the entire meeting can be found in the media box above, along with copies of the meeting agenda and other documents that were made public during the meeting.)
Under the revised brush collection schedule that was proposed Tuesday evening, no brush/yard waste would be collected during the months of February, March, June, July, August, and October – unless a snow storm, nor’easter or other severe weather event were to make it necessary for an emergency collection to take place.
According to the proposal, discarded Christmas trees would be picked up in the township’s four collection zones during the month of January; brush/yard waste would be collected in April, May and September; and leaf collection would occur in November and December.
The revised schedule would save about 2,652 labor hours per year that could be reassigned to “other core functions” of the township public works department, according to a memo from Public Works Director Greg Whitehead that was handed out at the meeting. In that memo (a copy of which can be found in the media box above), Whitehead notes that there would also be a savings in diesel fuel costs. Brush collection efforts during the months of February, March, June, July, August, and October in 2011 cost the township $10,814.12.
Public works is among the departments that will lose staff under the that will occur later this year.
“It will be necessary to do enforcement,” Krawczun said. “Since we would go through periods of time where there would be no brush pickup, residents would not be able to store brush on the street. It would have to be kept on their property or taken to the .”
He said significant efforts would be made to educate the public about the changes prior to fines being levied. Enforcement would not be done by the police but by other township employees authorized to do so, according to Krawczun.
“On the shadow of this, not ready for discussion this evening, the second part of the conversation is do we want to stop the operation of the compost facility?” Krawczun said. “That would negate, in some cases, some of the services that residents get at that location. But it’s a new day…. If we were to stop operating the compost facility, at this juncture it is not envisioned that it would reduce staff. What it would do is reduce some of the cost and then it would free up that staff to back-fill some of the other stuff that’s not being completed.”
Township Engineer James Parvesse appeared at the meeting to provide council members with an overview of all property owned by the township. While parks and Green Acres preservation land cannot be sold, some properties could be put on the market, albeit with changes to zoning and other conditions.
Five categories of properties were discussed. Parvesse estimated that $1,000-$3,000 each could be generated from selling the smallest lots to neighboring property owners, with the stipulation they cannot build on the lots and can use them only to increase their yard space. Larger lots (such as the site of the former public works garage on Ohio Avenue that, with zoning changes, could be subdivided into six lots) could draw between $40,000 and $50,000 apiece, he said.
“This presentation is not a hard and fast proposal,” Krawczun cautioned. “It is simply a sorting of the properties that the township owns. That’s very important. I don’t want anyone to leave here tonight thinking that this is a list of property we are going to put for sale, and upset neighbors. We will go through a whole process. This is just a sorting of the inventory into a workable subset.”
The proposed increases to municipal fees – such as inspections performed by township housing and health officials – that were discussed Tuesday night would generate an estimated total of $35,320 in additional revenue in 2013. (A copy of the proposed free increases can be found in the media box above.) Krawczun noted that the fees for which increases are proposed are not expected to be subject to the pending state legislation that would result in certain “user fees” being included in calculations for the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap.
Also during the meeting, one ordinance – concerning peddler permits – was adopted, and four other ordinances were introduced. The four ordinances introduced, in part, will do the following if they are adopted by council on July 17:
- amend the organization of the township police command staff by eliminating the position of the deputy police chief effective Sept. 2;
- authorize the appropriation of over $1.5 million for various capital improvements, as adopted in the township’s capital budget;
- authorize various road improvements – totaling $835,000 in grants, cash and bonds – as adopted in the township’s capital budget; and
- amend a previously-adopted capital ordinance to allow funds to be used to make improvements to the underground truck lift at the township public works facility.
Twenty-four resolutions were also approved Tuesday evening. Those resolutions:
- authorized the renewal of various ABC licenses in the township;
- canceled the council meetings previously scheduled for July 3 and Aug. 7;
- authorized the acceptance of grants from the state of New Jersey, Mercer County, the Lawrence Township Education Foundation and Bristol-Myers Squibb for various projects;
- authorized a council resolution opposing pending legislation that would result in user fees being included in calculations for the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap; and
- authorized a professional services contract – at an hourly rate of $300, with a maximum contract amount of $30,000 – with Mark T. Kenny of American Valuation Group Inc. of Lansdale, Pa., “to provide services as a court appraiser in the matter of the Quaker Bridge Mall tax appeal.”
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