Showdown on Garbage Collection Coming Tonight

Administration and private trash collectors will debate current system and single-hauler proposal in front of City Council at budget hearing at 6 p.m.


City Council tonight will discuss a proposal to institute a single-hauler residential trash collection system, a decision that could end Bethlehem’s longstanding and entrenched practice of requiring residents to hire their own refuse collectors.

Private haulers and Callahan administration officials who stand on opposite sides of this issue both continued to wage public relations campaigns Monday.

Community and Economic Development Director Joe Kelly attended a Neighborhood Watch meeting at Church of the Manger in West Bethlehem to talk about the proposal.

A few hours earlier, about two-dozen people – a mix of haulers, family members and supporters – came to Payrow Plaza to defend the city’s existing trash collection system and to oppose the administration’s proposal.

The proposal details, according to the administration:

  • The new cost would be no more than $300 per household, which includes the current $60 a year residents currently pay for recycling. That represents an average savings of $110 per household in the city. City officials have estimated that the average cost of private garbage collection in Bethlehem is currently $350, not including the city recycling fee.
  • The garbage cost is based in part on a tipping fee that the city has already bid. The new collector would not be bid out after the middle of 2013 and the new system would not take effect until October, which is when the city’s current recycling contract expires.
  • In a new contract, the hauler, in addition to collecting garbage, would be collecting recycling and yard waste on alternating weeks as well as bulk items, freon items, grass and Christmas trees.
  • The city would keep roughly $500,000 of the garbage fee proceeds to help pay for the growing costs of maintaining its recycling programs, including the Theis/Cornfeld Center and free shredding. Without a garbage fee, the recycling programs currently represent a $540,000 hole in the budget.

Andy Pirckler of Andy’s Hauling and Waste Disposal urged supporters of the current system to turn out for tonight’s City Council budget hearing at 6 in Town Hall and show support.

Haulers at the protest insisted that their services are superior to a single hauler because they can offer greater flexibility in pricing, giving breaks to people who put out fewer bags, including the elderly.

“We have the best garbage collection system in the world,” Pirckler insisted.

Mayor John Callahan doesn’t think so, backing his assertion with statistics from the city’s non-emergency complaint tracking system, which showed that garbage-related complaints were the most common in Bethlehem in 2011.

There were 809 garbage complaints in the city last year – 50 percent more than complaints about streetlights and double the number of complaints about overgrown grass and weeds.

Callahan also cites a city-commissioned citizen satisfaction survey done by the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion that showed more than half of city residents think the city’s garbage collection system could use some improvement.

The survey asked if residents would be supportive of a switch to a single-hauler system if costs are reduced and service improved and 65 percent of them said they would.

“If the results were different, I wouldn’t have moved forward with the plan,” Callahan said Monday. “I think it’s an inefficient system.”

The current system encourages illegal dumping and is more expensive than it needs to be for most Bethlehem residents, the mayor said.

Despite the criticisms leveled in the survey, the survey also shows that 58 percent of city residents rate their garbage collection as good or excellent, while 30 percent rate it as fair or poor.

However, private garbage collection critics could also point out that the city’s recycling collection, which relies on a contracted single hauler, is even more popular, with 83 percent rating that service as good or excellent and 16 percent rating it fair or poor.

The survey, taken in July 2011, relied on responses from 1,573 Bethlehem residents and had a margin of error of 3 percent.

Harry Piels November 27, 2012 at 01:28 PM
It's crazy to have garbage trucks running Bethlehem's streets every day of the week. That's annoying. I think,though, that current haulers do give a break to seniors who may only fill one bag per week. Maybe the city could work out a break for "one-baggers.." Some residents frequently have much more. Most annoying is that the city now allows residents to have garbage collected to the front of their home when there is an alley available.. That's an ugly addition to any residential area. We move toward "the Allentown look" every year.
Tom Bennett November 27, 2012 at 01:47 PM
A single hauler won't be able to do the whole city in one day . Many don't follow the rules as far as cans in front of the house or worse , on the street . Single haulers will want the trash by the curb . Pretty sure I'm right on those points . If it ain't broke , don't fix it !!!
Ruby Montana November 27, 2012 at 02:52 PM
A single hauler system was proposed years ago. They wanted bags with no trash can or lid, out on the curb. The bag was to be one provided that had a logo on it. They also wanted the individual to handle customer service issues. If there was a problem with, or no pick-up, the homeowner had to call the hauler. The city stayed "uninvolved". They also priced by bag, even though they dump by weight. And of course, they would not clear the city of trash in one day. Like recycling, they would be all over in zones. It's not broke. The budget is. They need to get that 5 thou somewhere else.
Lisa Bolash November 27, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Why didn't they put this to a vote on election day? Probably because it would not have passed. This new proposal will double what I pay for garbage and recycling right now. It is completely unfair to force an increase like this on residents.
Lisa Bolash November 27, 2012 at 04:54 PM
not to mention the small business owners that will likely be forced out of business as a result of this proposal. This is short sighted on the part of the mayor and city council.
logansteele November 27, 2012 at 08:52 PM
If we go with single hauler we will have all refuse, be it yard waste, large items, household trash or recyclable material picked up at the curb...in the front of the home. When recycling was started the Historic Beth. area had to fight to get ally pickup. Everyone else uses the front curb. We will need to see the particulars of the contract also. In the last major push for a single hauler one had to use bags, not bins with lids. As you can imagine nocturnal animals would have had a field day with that. There was no way to get rid of a poorly performing or convicted provider for the term of the contract. We will also need to know if the single hauler will be bringing trash from outside Beth. to our landfill and if so, what classification of waste will be included. I appreciate that Beth. residents responded to a survey but if that survey was not strictly for property owners responsible for the trash removal it's not acceptable that only the property owner pays. If a single hauler system is adopted a per capita tax to fund waste removal payment would better reflect having those who benefit also accepting the burden of the cost.
Sandi Batchelor November 27, 2012 at 08:54 PM
I'm very happy with my current trash collection. His prices are reasonable and he takes anything and everything. Is a single hauler going to collect everything without charging extra? I think not. Plus, what will stop a single hauler from raising the prices any damn time they want? The residents of Bethlehem will have no say in it whatsoever; it's not right. Get the money from somewhere else. As said above, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"!!
logansteele November 27, 2012 at 09:15 PM
So now it's a shortfall in the recycling budget. I thought we needed more money for the 911 center. I thought we needed the money to pay for pensions. What else are we losing money on? It appears we have many things we can't afford. Perhaps it would be better for private haulers to take recycling also and take it somewhere other than the city's center so that the recycling program can be downsized to minimize costs. Perhaps individuals should be able to take recyclable material anywhere they choose and even get paid for it. Perhaps the city needs to go back to the drawing board and learn to live within a budget just like so many of us do with our paychecks...which don't always include annual raises.
Kathy Chapman November 28, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Thank you Sandi, I sent an email to City counsel....with the same sentiments..".not broke..don't fix."...I told them, since I don't mess with their trash.... keep your hands off mine! I pay $16.00 a month....I don't know where the Mayor shops for his trash prices!!! You are correct, the minute one contract ends, it will be time to "re-negotiate" and by then (and AFTER putting 31 companys out of business) City Counsel AND the mayor will be LONG GONE...with us taxpayers STUCK...NO THANKS!
Kathy Chapman November 28, 2012 at 10:51 PM
well said, during the 11/19 meet, the single trash hauler "revenue" was "earmarked" for the 911 ctr. Then, the mayor explained, he wanted program to continue 2013 more yr to see how it goes! Mayor,red PEN cross out item RED X. 2013 not yr to "fund" for the sake of testing.Obocare is a factor companies are figuring out, by taking red pen an Xing out EMP/ You'll just inc hardships,already with layoffs, no raises. when recycle started, was profitable for the City (TMarshall baby) slowly instead of once a yr "add on" fee, for p u, now billed quarterly. I watched recycling operator leave corrigaded cardboard behind, it was NOT IN the blue bucket and very same person thru all the recycling in same bin on truck.so much for us separating it! The budget has a $3000exp allow for MICROFICHE.when Ms Dolan asked, the young man sitting next to the mayor, quickly, said it was a STATE law.What, I looked it up an emailed her. Natl Archive papers SUGGEST microfiche for govt archives.Did anyone revisit that exp item? Ms Dolan also asked why, after the bus. wk ends,having rec'd many emails and council documents, why a police officer, HANDDELIVERs photocopies of same info IN AN ENV to EA. COUNCIL! Realize they reside all over city and meet FREQUENTLY.I continue to look over this sham budget.conclusion.reduce Mayor/Council salaries til budget is under control.I know there is more to cut, that I have not raised YET!!! they are not looking.and I believe City has to live within means too.
logansteele November 29, 2012 at 02:44 AM
We could get rid of our forester and the street tree program especially in light of the fact that the storms the last two years have proven that street trees are no longer appropriate with wires. The trees we have now are routinely destroyed by heavy pruning as it is. We can also look at the services the Health Bureau provides. Since everyone will have health ins. in 2014 it is time to wind down services such as the STD clinic and prenatal services. Why duplicate what private physicians can take care of? These are small things but why not get rid of any dead wood we don't need before we take over an entire sector of employment in the city?


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something