Residents of New Paltz — particularly in the more densely-populated village — would be hard-pressed not to be aware of the number of garbage trucks collecting from residential properties. A homeowner who doesn’t wish to use the town transfer station can contract with any of a number of companies on a month-to-month basis, and the result is that garbage is collected every day of the week. A group of residents, including public officials, would like to bring some order to that chaos.
As it stands now, different waste-carting companies pick up from their customers on different days. That means there’s almost always garbage cans at the side of the road, adding to visual and odor pollution, as well as large, noisy trucks rumbling up and down streets. Those trucks wake up neighbors, slow down traffic, and take their toll on the road surface, as well. To regularize pickup and reduce inconvenience would require a system that ensures only one pickup per week per street. Purchasing a fleet of vehicles and hiring people to drive them would be completely unaffordable, which is why a franchise agreement is being explored instead.
Village trustee Dennis Young is spearheading this project. He’s spoken with Tim Rose, executive director of the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency, as well as the owners of many of the companies currently hauling garbage away from New Paltz residences. His goal is to put together an RFP (request for proposals) that will be attractive to those business owners. He believes that securing such a municipal franchise agreement would be quite lucrative, because it would reduce the cost of doing business in two ways. First, anyone in the town who wanted pickup service would have to go to that company, meaning that trucks would be full every time. Second, there would be no marketing costs needed.
Young said it’s not yet clear if awarding a single franchise or several would make more sense. What he does know is that the idea, while it originated in the village, should include the entire town if it’s to proceed. That’s because if the population-dense village was taken off the table by such a plan, residents of the rest of the town might find their choices of haulers otherwise evaporate because it wouldn’t be as lucrative to operate in New Paltz sans village streets. If haulers did continue to service those homes, many of the gains in the village would be eliminated by multiple garbage trucks driving through village streets to reach those homes.
When this idea was broached at a joint town-village meeting, town council member Jeff Logan expressed concerns that small haulers might be put out of business by such a move. On the contrary, believes Young: a smaller hauler could collect from a different portion of the town each day, conceivably resulting in more profit than marketing door-to-door. That’s even with the expected lower prices under the franchise agreement. However, Young is also mindful that in a free market, there is always a risk of being forced out by competition in one form or another.
The benefits to the community are manifold, in Young’s opinion. Not only would traffic and aesthetic problems be reduced, not only would roads likely last longer without those additional trucks on them, there are also many old homes that could use a break from the vibrations those trucks create. He noted that board members of Historic Huguenot Street have long been concerned about damage to those historic homes due to nearby trucks; a plan is now being finalized to close much of that street to traffic entirely. “How many other old homes are there in New Paltz?” he asked. “Homes that aren’t on historic registers, but still might be being damaged?” According to a formula that calculates truck impact based on equivalent single-axle loads (ESAL), a truck can do as much as 3,000 times as much damage as it passes over a road or by a house than a passenger car.
Mayor Tim Rogers thinks that noise pollution is one of the biggest problems that could be tackled under this plan. On his quiet street, “The only thing I heard from inside my house is large trucks,” and that’s just driving by; he wasn’t even talking about the noise during the trash collection itself.
The plan as presently conceived would have haulers bid on a franchise that would last 3-5 years. Homeowners who wanted garbage collection curbside would be billed directly and pay the fee set in that franchise agreement. An additional fee would be paid directly to the municipality for administering the agreement. Former town council member and county legislator Ken Wishnick has been a “phenomenal asset” according to Young, because he has experience negotiating such agreements on behalf of waste-hauling companies.
Businesses would not be included, Young said. That’s in part because of restaurants in particular, the waste from which includes a much higher percentage of compostable material than any private residence would.
Young said that the next steps in the process are to collect even more feedback. There are owners of waste-hauling companies he hasn’t been in touch with yet, and he also wants to understand the concerns of residents. Once the idea is finalized in principle and approved by both town and village board members, an RFP would be published inviting company owners to bid for the right to collect solid waste in New Paltz.