VINELAND, NJ: Vineland City Council voted at Tuesday’s regular meeting to approve a Shared Services Agreement with the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) for solid waste, bulky waste, and recycling collection services. As part of the Agreement, the ACUA will also establish a partnership with the Cumberland County Improvement Authority’s (CCIA) to utilize their Fleet Maintenance Services. The five-year agreement is scheduled to begin on January 1, 2019. The city’s current five-year contract with South Jersey Sanitation expires at the end of this year.
According to city officials, several factors were considered as part of the decision-making process including benefits to the environment, litter reduction, additional services residents will receive, and a need for more efficient service. Vineland officials also see the Agreement as a means for long-term cost containment.
“The ACUA has an outstanding reputation for providing solid waste management services,” said Vineland Mayor Anthony Fanucci. “They have been recognized at the state and national level as a leader in alternative energy and environmental innovation including the area’s first publicly accessible Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station. Additionally, their efforts to promote sustainability through public education and citizen engagement are a perfect complement to ongoing efforts by the Vineland Clean Communities program and the CCIA.”
“The ACUA is pleased to partner with the City of Vineland and the Cumberland County Improvement Authority in bringing high quality trash and recycling collection to the residents of Vineland,” ACUA President Rick Dovey said. “The ACUA has established itself as a leader in shared services and currently provides trash or recycling pickup in more than 20 municipalities across South Jersey. We look forward to extending our reach to Vineland and working alongside the local community.”
“The Cumberland County Improvement Authority is happy to be a partner in this progressive shared service agreement that maximizes our collective strengths,” said CCIA President and CEO Jerry Velazquez. “The Mayor and Council should be credited for their continued commitment to look beyond the city’s boundaries to seek innovative solutions that are in the best interests of its residents.”
Under the Agreement, most Vineland residents would see no change in their current collection schedule or materials that are collected. “There may be a change in collection days for about 250 residents in East Vineland,” said Public Works Director/Superintendent Mark Guglielmi. “We will be sending notification regarding any change in collection days to all residents who may be affected prior to January 1, 2019. There will also be a public education period to help walk residents through the transition and address any questions.”
To facilitate the Agreement, the ACUA is purchasing 11 new environmentally friendly CNG collection vehicles and two Supervisor vehicles at a cost of $3.5 million which will be dedicated for use in Vineland. The trucks, which are cleaner and cheaper to operate than diesel trucks, will be stationed and maintained at the CCIA Solid Waste Complex, which will also handle the disposal of the solid waste and recyclable material. “Also, we will be recruiting locally to fill the new jobs being created,” Dovey said. “They are good union jobs with the Operating Engineers Local 68.”
Vineland residents will receive new 96-gallon trash and recycling containers which include attached lids to help prevent litter and recyclables from blowing out onto the streets, and wheels for easy transport. The containers will have an RFID tag to help keep track of containers which may be lost or misplaced. Under the new program, residents will be able to place one item of bulky waste out each collection day. The number of collection days throughout the year will stay the same, and there will be no collection on the following holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July.
Vineland officials anticipate residents will also see a big improvement in customer service including a reduction or elimination of missed pick-ups, and the careless dumping of waste by trash handlers during collection. This is one of the biggest generators of wind-blown litter throughout the city.
“As part of their customer service protocol, ACUA staff will be accessible via phone, live chat, and social media to answer questions and handle service issues,” Fanucci said. “They log every request into a data base to easily identify any patterns, and there will always be a manager present within the city during collection periods. The ACUA also plans to offer collection reminders and alerts for residents by text, email, or telephone.”
According to city officials, implementing the Shared Services Agreement will also help mitigate the rate of increase for trash disposal costs for the future. “We were facing a substantial increase in disposal costs based on informal discussions our Public Works Department had with other municipalities in South Jersey,” said City Council President Paul Spinelli. “Because the ACUA is a not-for-profit operation, the disposal costs paid by Vineland residents under the Shared Services Agreement reflect the actual cost of the services without additional mark-up. This includes salaries and benefits; vehicle maintenance, fuel, and insurance; customer service; and support costs like uniforms and safety equipment.”
Under the current contract, Vineland residents pay $18.00 per month for solid waste services. It is expected this will increase to $21 in 2019. As part of the new Agreement, the city will have the option to cancel the contract with 180 days’ notice if they are not happy with the service. Additionally, due to the increased capacity of the collection containers, city officials will have the option to reduce the number of collection days in the future.
“After a year, residents may find that two trash collection days a week are not necessary, or that bi-weekly recycling is a viable option. A reduction in the collection schedule would result in a corresponding decrease in disposal costs. After implementation we will be looking for input from the public regarding the new program in order that we may provide the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method of solid waste disposal for Vineland residents,” Mayor Fanucci concluded.