TALKING TRASH, POLITELY

WatsonGary Watson, in blue shirt at center, met with residents at the River Street Commons.

About a dozen Red Bankers turned out Thursday night to hear borough public works director Gary Watson discuss the whys and wherefores of rules governing garbage, bulk waste and brush, animal control and parking.

And while those are topics that sometimes generate a good deal of heat in private conversation and in comments posted on redbankgreen, there was no evidence of ire at the River Street Commons as Watson and the residents engaged in a polite exchange over the course of an hour.

In fact, most of the requests Watson fielded called for more enforcement, not less.

Vicky Nelson of River Street asked for attention to a pit bull that she says has spent every day of the past year tied up in a yard near her home, and expressed concern that the dog might get loose and attack someone.

Watson told her he would have animal control officer Henry Perez look into it.

One resident asked for help getting a designated handicapped parking space for a neighbor, while another wondered why homeowners who put bags of trash atop their garbage cans aren’t ticketed.

Watson directed the first questioner to the police department, which must clear the request, he said.

Regarding the trash bags, he said that while bags left on the ground or atop containers are subject to ticketing, “I’m not going to bring down the hammer on the residents of this town” if a bag is up off the ground and out of the reach of animals.

“When people put plastic bags on top of cans, we don’t lose our minds about it,” he said. “We issue warnings.”

Amy Goldsmith of the West Side Community Group, which hosted the session, wondered why, in recent months, all recyclables — paper, plastic glass — have been mixed together at pickup.

Watson said that he is always shopping for the best prices for the material from buyers of the waste, and that the one now used by the borough, Waste Management, of Newark, does its own separation of the materials from a “single stream.”

Watson said residents may mix their recyclables at present without fear of being cited, but added that he hasn’t publicized that because the borough could in the future return to selling to recyclers that buy only separated waste.

A retired deputy police chief and Red Bank native, Watson said that since he returned to work for the borough in 2003, his foremost goals have been to impose order on a public works operation that was in disarray and to keep the streets clean.

“It wasn’t all roses” getting to those goals, he said, but said he believes “it is working. I don’t see debris on the streets.”

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