August 7, 2013

New Fee Schedule Adopted by Council For Organics Program

Hoping to attract more households to sign up for the town’s curbside organic waste program, Princeton Council approved a new fee schedule at its meeting on Monday night, allowing the initiative to be continued into 2014.

New sign-ups for the municipal collection of food waste, scraps, and other organic materials will pay the $65 annual fee, but it will be pro-rated through the end of next year. So far, 701 households have joined the program, according to Bob Hough, the town’s director of infrastructure and operations. Last month, 49 signed up for the service. Officials said earlier this year that they hoped to have 1,000 people enrolled by the end of 2013.

“One of the comments we’ve repeatedly gotten is that people don’t want to pay the $65 fee for six months or five months,” Mr. Hough said of those residents his office has spoken with about the program. “We have had a number of people say they will sign up if their $65 goes for 12 months or more.”

Under the voluntary program, participants place organic materials in a green container for once-weekly pickup by Central Jersey Waste and Recycling. Princeton pays the hauler $180 per household, a portion of which is offset by the $65 fee. The program is “somewhat of a loss leader right now,” municipal administrator Bob Bruschi said Monday afternoon, before the meeting. The town subsidizes the initiative about $2,500 a month.

The organics are currently hauled to a recycling center in Delaware. “If we find a closer location, it will be less costly for the municipality,” Mr. Bruschi said. “Part of the idea of getting the numbers up is to get someone to come into Mercer County to handle it so we don’t have to take it to Delaware.”

Council member Heather Howard commented that she wished participants didn’t have to pay a fee to participate in the program. “I hope next year we can consider lowering it,” she said. Fellow Council member Patrick Simon concurred with Mr. Bruschi about the future of the program. “The intent is to get a facility closer to here,” he said. “That’s the goal. Having a facility nearby will drive the cost of it down.”

Also at the meeting, the Council voted 3-2 to introduce an ordinance that would designate the town’s administrator as the appropriate authority over the police department. Council member Jo Butler, who voted against the introduction along with Bernie Miller, argued that the Council should be the authority because it is transparent, and therefore less political. A public hearing on the ordinance will take place at the August 26 meeting of the Council.