LINWOOD — City Council approved an ordinance Wednesday that would bring in the ACUA to handle trash cleanup and lay off three public works employees.
The vote, unanimous except for Council President Donna Taylor’s abstention, came after several members of the public — and the employees’ union president — took issue with the reasoning behind the move and the way it came about.
Councilman Darren Matik said the Atlantic County Utilities Authority's offer of trash pickup for $165,700 a year would save the city $1.2 million over five years. The deal would also include the purchase of the city's truck for $171,000.
The switch to the ACUA would also save 4 cents on the potential tax rate increase this year, Councilman Tim Tighe said, dropping it from an additional 9.9 cents to 5.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value. The budget has yet to be introduced. A 4-cent decrease would save $80 on the tax bill of the owner of a home assessed at $200,000.
The three employees have been offered interviews with the ACUA, but its president, Rick Dovey, said earlier this week that only one accepted.
“We believe it’s not only a great way to save money, but also be able to use some of the savings and spread them throughout the city, as our budget is very stringent,” Matik said.
Resident Wayne Dilks, who passed out a petition he said had more than 170 names, said that he didn’t believe Matik’s savings estimates.
“This is very wrong,” Dilks said. “I think this is a personalized thing for some people. This has been brought up before and it was always defeated.”
Henry Madamba, whose son had been a Public Works employee, asked “How do you put a measure on those guys out there doing all the work? … You say it saves four cents on the overall tax rate. We’ve got more than four cents invested in this town.”
Madamba also questioned whether ACUA crews would give as much care to trash pickup as those who work only in town.
“We moved here to be in a community, and when you take services out of a community, you remove that aspect of it,” added resident Dan Adams. “I believe these men are part of the community, whether they live here or not.”
Teamsters Local 331 President Marcus King, meanwhile, said that he had hoped for more openness in the process.
“If it were something you had to do, why is it we weren’t called to the table to say so?” King asked.
Councilman Todd Gordon said it was a sensitive issue — “believe me, I’ve heard it from within my own family,” he said — but concluded that “the numbers are clear on both sides, what (the current cost) is and what the savings are.”
“It isn’t something we did lightly by any means,” Tighe added, pointing to the 4-cent savings on the tax rate. “I grew up here, my children grew up here, and I’d like them to stay here. I’d like them to be able to afford to stay here.”
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