By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
The guys who pick up trash on Mondays and Thursdays in Rumson aren’t your average garbagemen, apparently. In fact, the term ‘garbageman’ is one that Lennox Avenue resident Teresa Connor finds unfit for the group of “smart young men” assigned cleanup duty of the borough’s 2,500 or so properties.
They provide security, they know most people by their first name, she said. One woman said they give her dog biscuits in the morning.
After hearing that the six-man crew was on the employment chopping block, about three dozen residents filed into borough hall Tuesday afternoon to give an earful to the council.
The governing body last week said it’s looking into privatizing trash collection to save money in what’s undoubtedly going to be a difficult budget year, with a 2-percent property tax cap looming in 2011. Council President Shaun Broderick said Tuesday the savings could be upward of $200,000 a year by outsourcing its collection.
Not worth it, locals who turned out at the meeting said.
“I commend you for trying to save some money. We all have to do that,” said Chili Callman, a former mayor and councilman. “But I think taking the garbage from our local people and giving it to an outside contractor is wrong. The best thing for our own residents is what we have now.”
Some residents offered suggestions to keep the current system intact: hold a fundraiser, set up a trash and recycling authority or, as JoAnn April recommended, have the upper echelon of employees take a pay cut.
“Why the low man on the totem pole?” she asked. “Let’s make cuts some place else and let these guys keep their jobs.”
Councilman Frank Shanley said it hasn’t been determined how many employees would lose their jobs if the council decides to job out its trash pickup. Some jobs could be saved if Rumson can negotiate enough shared services agreements with other towns, but there is no guarantee that will happen, he said.
Broderick said the council is still in the early stages of researching the idea of outsourced sanitation work, and that only informal talks with cartage companies have taken place. The borough would have to go out to bid and approve any agreement at a council meeting.
“No one really wants to do it,” Shanley said. “We’re really faced with a very difficult situation.”
With pension and health care costs trending upward, and pressure being put on the budget, Broderick said Rumson is behind other towns in outsourcing its trash collection. Privatization and shared services are inevitable in today’s economy, he said.
“It’s a dying breed, that they show up with their name on the side of the truck,” he said. “I don’t think it’s revolutionary. This is the way towns are going.”
Indeed. Fair Haven last week also announced it would go private for its trash services. But unlike Rumson, no jobs are at stake in making such a move.
Todd Sherman, who owns Barnacle Bill’s, has the perspective of both sides, having regular trash pickup from the borough but also having a private company pick up his trash the rest of the week. It’s a lopsided comparison, he said, and urged the council to reconsider its stance.
“They’re OK,” Sherman said of the company he hires, “but they’re not locals.”