ATLANTIC CITY — Mayor Don Guardian vowed Friday to release documents soon proving the city does its trash and recycling pickup more cheaply than the Atlantic County Municipal Utilities Authority could.

However, a consultant who compared costs and wrote a report for the city in November said he reached the opposite conclusion.

Guardian said he never saw the cost comparison prepared by former Galloway Township Police Chief Patrick Moran, who was hired for $30,000 for a six-month period as assistant public works administrator to find cost savings.

In two press conferences in the resort Wednesday, Gov. Chris Christie and Guardian sparred over how seriously the city is pursuing cost-cutting and whether the county can provide some services for less money.

At his event, Guardian said the city saves $400,000 a year by doing its own trash and recycling pickups.

Moran said Thursday he had concluded the ACUA option was less expensive.

“In general I remember a savings; however, the report was something I did as an employee, and I believe it’s the property of the city,” said Moran, who declined to share a copy of the report or characterize the size of the savings.

“We are being pulled into the financial and political vortex of the city, not by our choice,” said ACUA President Rick Dovey, who said the city’s characterization of the ACUA as more expensive is inaccurate and harmful.

Dovey said the city balked at using the ACUA last fall only after the authority said it would not hire 35 city sanitation workers. He said the ACUA only needed 16 workers to do the Atlantic City job.

The city is also about $208,000 behind in paying tipping fees for dumping at the county landfill since mid-December, said Dovey. He said the ACUA is not planning to refuse the city the right to dump there soon, but some payment must be made to avoid sticking county taxpayers with the bill.

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The Press is awaiting a copy of Moran’s report after making an Open Public Records Act request to the city.

Guardian said he is relying on information collected from the city’s finance department and auditors about the cost of salaries and benefits, pensions, workman’s compensation insurance, trash and recycling truck purchase, and maintenance and fuel costs.

He is releasing the financial information Monday, “because the governor questioned my math skills,” he said of Christie’s statements at a press conference with Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson.

Moran said the city’s cost numbers may have changed since his report, which was sent to Public Works Director Paul Jerkins in November.

Dovey said the ACUA gave the city a price of about $2 million a year for trash and recycling pickup last fall.

It included weekly trash pickup at a cost of $1.46 million and every-other-week recycling pickup from homes, along with weekly or twice-weekly recycling pickup from businesses, for another $542,000 a year.

The city’s 2015 sanitation budget under its Public Works Department includes $1.7 million in salaries and wages and $1.9 million in “other expenses” for a total of about $3.6 million.

But the mayor said sanitation also includes things like street sweeping, not just trash and recycling.

“You can’t take all the costs of sanitation,” Guardian said.

It is unclear if truck maintenance is part of sanitation or included in the $2.8 million Public Works “vehicle maintenance” line item.

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Guardian said the city would have considered using the ACUA if it were cheaper and ensured city employees were given first choice for hiring.

“It never got to that point,” he said.

But Dovey said it did.

Moran told him in September the contract could move forward if the ACUA would hire 35 sanitation workers for at least a six-month period, Dovey said.

That would have added more than $800,000 to the cost, Dovey said. It also wasn’t possible for reasons involving unions, workman’s compensation and the Affordable Care Act, he said.

The ACUA had picked up recycling in Atlantic City for 26 years. That ended March 1, 2015, after City Council declined to extend the contract.

Guardian said it was because of a cost increase.

Dovey said the city paid about $532,000 in 2014 and would have paid 2 percent more, or about $543,000, in 2015.

At the time, city officials said they expected to save $132,000 a year by collecting recycling in-house.

The city now does weekly trash and recycling pickup, but recycling is only picked up from residences. Businesses must make their own arrangements, Guardian said.

The city recycled 1,000 tons less in 2015 than it did in 2014, said Dovey. But Guardian said he didn’t believe there has been a decrease.

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Dovey said the city also owes the ACUA about $90,000 for recycling pickup in the first two months of 2015 and $54,000 for about 750 commercial carts and containers it agreed to buy from the authority to keep them from being taken back by the ACUA.

The city often paid late and the ACUA forgave about $97,000 in late and finance fees in 2014, Dovey said.

Moran was hired for a six-month period starting in July 2015 and ending in January, with the approval of Emergency Manager Kevin Lavin and state monitor Ed Sasdelli. He was charged with evaluating aspects of the city's Public Works Department, such as the efficiency of fleet management, recycling and trash operations, said Chris Filiciello, chief of staff for Guardian.

Although Guardian said he didn’t see Moran’s cost-comparison report, in November he and Jerkins told a Press reporter that Moran concluded it would be cheaper to keep trash and recyclables collection in-house.

The administration did not allow The Press to speak with Moran at the time.

Contact: 609-272-7219

Twitter @MichelleBPost

Copy desk chief / comics blogger

Press copy editor since 2006, copy desk chief since 2014. Masters in journalism from Temple University, 2006. My weekly comics blog, Wednesday Morning Quarterback, appears Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com.

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