Montclair Council Talks Trash, Bamboo and Security in Parking Decks

One and done.  The Montclair Township Council concluded its August 8 conference meeting one hour after convening after a very light agenda.  The bulk of the meeting was devoted to an update on the Bigbelly trash receptacles that were installed in Montclair Center earlier this year, with Bigbelly representatives Rick Gaudette and Joseph Nardello briefing Mayor Robert Jackson and the councilors.

The Montclair Township Council

Gaudette and Nardello said the 40 receptacles, called “stations,” had accumulated 24 tons of waste since they were first installed in February 2017, with a 98 percent efficiency rate in collection and computerized alerts from each receptacle, which are activated when the receptacles are 80 percent full – all running smoothly.  Craig Brandon, the township’s Supervisor of Solid Waste Services, has been overseeing the implementation of the Bigbelly program in town.

Guadette and Nardello explained that the Bigbelly concept allows for receptacle locations to be adapted and changed when the situation calls for it.  They noted an area along Church Street where so much waste was being discarded in the Bigbelly can – 7,000 gallons, the highest volume of any receptacle – that a second receptacle would be added to to keep things in balance.  The Massachusetts-based company’s operational system is designed to accommodate such flexibility.

Mayor Jackson praised the program, saying the downtown area looks cleaner and that the cans made it “cool” to throw away trash.   Deputy Mayor / Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager added she no longer sees overflowing trash cans on Sunday mornings, noting that Bigbelly cans were also being used in New Orleans and in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Though it was started only on a trial basis, Councilor-at-Large Robert Russo found it to be a wise decision.

Gaudette and Nardello said it would make sense to expand in areas such as Watchung Plaza, the Upper Montclair business district and the parks, though a full assessment of the parks has not been done yet.  Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford said it would be prudent to put a out a bid for more receptacles in stages, and the council approved a measure so that Stafford can move forward on that.

The council also unanimously passed a first-reading ordinance amending the town’s disorderly-conduct rule to allow events involving beer gardens and wine tasting to be in compliance with the law.   Under the change, the town would be able to give organizers such events permission regarding alcohol use, something the ordinance currently does not allow them to do.  Other items up for a vote included the bill list and a resolution awarding a contract for reconstruction of the third section of Gates Avenue.  Both passed unanimously as well.

The council also expeditiously passed a resolution to execute an approval permit application for improvements to the sewer line through the Bonsal Preserve on the town’s northern boundary. The passage of this resolution, which was originally slated for a vote on August 22, was passed to allow Manager Stafford to sign off on it on Wednesday morning (August 9) to get the project, which also includes participation from neighboring Clifton, going faster.  Township Engineer Kim Craft told the council the line would be installed with the “jack and bore” method, which involves digging a pit to push the sewer pipe through.

Deputy Mayor Schlager brought up two items not on the conference agenda.  One was the subject of security at parking decks, which she had talked about in the previous night’s special Planning Board meeting.  She noted that ProPark America, which is slated to manage new parking decks being built for the Seymour Street redevelopment plan, has used blue-light security systems in decks it manages elsewhere, but such systems are currently not used in Montclair.  Deputy Mayor Schlager said while most people use their cell phones in emergencies, many women keep their cell phones in their handbags – but if their handbags are suddenly snatched in a parking deck, they obviously can’t use them to call for help.  She advocated having them put in all of the township’s decks – in existing as well as planned decks.  Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville said it was an excellent suggestion, and she added the idea of using cameras.  Mayor Jackson said he believed there is money available for additional security features in the decks.

Deputy Mayor Schlager also called attention to another problem – the use of bamboo by some property owners.  Bamboo is used to screen one lawn from another, but it grows rapidly and is hard, if not impossible to control.  The only way to get rid of it is to pour cement over it.  She proposed that town arborist Steve Schuckman could brief the council on how to deal with it.  Several towns already have anti-bamboo ordinances.

In public comment, resident Robin Woods asked about the Pinnacle development company’s parking of construction equipment and its dumping of gravel in the Lackawanna Plaza parking lot.  Township Attorney Ira Karasick said that he’d have to check but he “honestly” couldn’t say if it would be there for the duration of the construction of the MC hotel.   He did say the space would not be employed for the Seymour Street redevelopment project, because he was aware that materials for that project would be staged elsewhere.

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  1. When the BigBelly trash solution was first proposed, Mr. Brandon said it would be more efficient and free up town trash collectors. How have those freed up resources been deployed? Clearly this is a capital expense, which is fine. But how are the taxpayers seeing the benefit of our increased productivity. More litter patrol (though it seems like BID employees are the only ones doing that downtown)?

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