Cold Spring to Consider Private Garbage Collection

Royal Carting asked to do test run in village

By Michael Turton

The Village of Cold Spring may be getting out of the garbage collection business.

At the Jan. 9 meeting of the Village Board, Mayor Dave Merandy announced that Royal Carting will do a test run on Jan. 30, collecting both garbage and recyclables throughout the village. The board and Royal will then evaluate whether the company should take over from the Highway Department.

Merandy, who has wanted to reassess garbage collection since first taking office, commented that contracting out collection would free up the Highway Department to concentrate on other duties. “Garbage and recycling take up so much time,” he said.

Royal Carting will conduct a test run for the village. (Photo provided)

However, Merandy expressed concern over how Highway Department workers might be affected. “We’re not out to kill anyone’s job,” he said, stating that he wants to ensure “the guys who have been working here are employed and stay with us.”

Merandy also emphasized that the cost to taxpayers would have to be considered. If the change is adopted, “individual homeowners would be responsible for pickup and for contracting with Royal,” he said. “The village would be out of the business totally.”

The cost to residents won’t be known until Royal completes the test run. “There are a lot of variables,” Merandy said. The company has indicated that residents would be charged a reduced rate due to the large number of homes involved.

Police Report

The Cold Spring Police Department handled 63 calls for service in December. Two arrests were made, for disorderly conduct and for unlicensed operation of a vehicle. Thirty-one parking tickets were issued along with 25 traffic violations.

Village workers pick up garbage beginning at 1 a.m. on Tuesday and collect recyclables on Friday. Royal will begin the Jan. 30 test run at 4 a.m. Two trucks will work in tandem, one handling garbage and the other recyclables. Workers from the Highway Department will accompany them.

The test run will be done at no cost to the village, and any revenue from recyclables will be refunded.

Royal handles garbage collection in a number of Hudson Valley communities including Beacon, Fishkill and Wappingers Falls. They also do garbage pickup in Nelsonville under contract with the village, not with individual residents. Cold Spring’s Forge Gate condominiums also contracts with Royal.

15 thoughts on “Cold Spring to Consider Private Garbage Collection

  1. The Mayor and Village Board need to inform Village residents of the costs of this proposal to pay for their own garbage removal. Will there be a credit to our Village taxes if individuals are now required to pay for garbage collection? What specifically will the Highway Department be doing when not in the middle of winter? We need to understand what Village tax dollars are being spent on.

    We have an empty municipal parking lot at night and residents across the street cannot park there without paying. When are residents getting parking permits? We need to better understand our Village elected officials goals to “improve” life for all the people who reside in the Village. As residents, we also must attend these meetings where a few people make decisions that impact all our lives and our pocketbooks. I am not necessarily opposed to the garbage proposal, but need to understand how it benefits village residents and taxpayers.

    • P.S. – Thank you to the Highway Department and other Village staff, Water Department and private contractors who did amazing work repairing water mains in the coldest morning hours. Very grateful and appreciate all you do for our Village.

  2. Our village crew is indeed heroic, and might need to be expanded. If plans re Royal pickup continue, I assume community input will be sought, especially if homeowners are footing the bill. One also assumes that arrangements would be made to adapt to each household, as singles surely wouldn’t be billed as much as families. Already, many different ideas have been floated among neighbors — a big one being: If Nelsonville pays Royal, why would Cold Spring Village not? Thanks for the reporting!

  3. I don’t know if this is exactly what your Board is proposing, but in Putnam Valley, where I live, we have “improvement districts” that perform various services including garbage pickup. The improvement districts are geographical entities within the town, the largest one is Lake Peekskill which has about 700 residents and there are smaller ones scattered around the town. Not every resident is in an Improvement District; many contract for garbage pickup with various companies on their own.

    The Town puts the garbage contract for all the districts out to bid so we can get the best deal. The cost of garbage pickup is included in our town tax bill that we get in January and it is based on the assessed value of our homes.

    Like I said, I don’t know if that’s what the Village has in mind but it is not at all uncommon for a municipality to arrange for garbage pickup for its residents with a private hauler. I hope it works out for you and that it ends up saving money.

  4. As the article stated, the test run to determine costs will occur on Jan. 30 when Royal Carting will pick up trash and recycling on the same day.

    Cost-saving measures can be made in every household before by separating out as many recyclables as you can. The more each household recycles, the less expensive waste management is to the Village. Cold Spring pays per pound to dispose of our non-recyclable garbage. In turn, we are paid a little bit of money for recyclables. Not a lot, but some.

    Right now, Cold Spring pays to dump somewhere between two to three times as much garbage as we recycle. Thus, the more items we recycle, the less we all pay to dispose of trash.

    Much of the trash we pay to dump is food waste which represents a lot of weight compared to other trash. Please keep those compost buckets handy and compost as much food waste as you can. It’s good for your garden, good for the environment and saves every taxpayer money whether our highway department does the collection or a private company.

  5. One other thing about municipal collection that residents might want to think about before you have public hearings on the subject and that goes back to what Sara Dulaney said about special rates for singles or small households.

    The system of basing the fee for garbage collection on the assessed value of your home is extremely flawed. Suppose you are an empty nester or a senior citizen who is still living in a substantial home and that you produce very little garbage. Why should you pay more than say a family of five that lives in a much smaller house that’s assessed at very little or much less? The big question is, why should anyone pay for garbage picked up based on the assessed value of their home? It makes no sense. You should pay based on how much garbage you produce.

    I would advise my friends in Cold Spring to do your homework before this issue is decided on by the board! Believe me, once it commits to doing it a certain way it will almost impossible to change it in the future. The Village is small enough that you should be able to have a say and some control over your future.

    Good luck!

    • When you mention that currently the fee for garbage collection is based on the assessed value of homes (or of other types of taxed real estate), and assert that this is extremely flawed, you may have inadvertently hit upon a far larger issue. With few exceptions, the fee (or cost, in most cases, the tax) for an individual for all local government-supplied services is based on these assessed values, and this has long been the case, dating from the days when the wealthy owned most of the real estate and all of the governments, and therefore at that time there was no divergence in or disruption to their interests. Today while governments are still owned by the wealthy real estate is more widely held (and these real estate taxes are paid by a wider and more diverse portion of the population).

      All else being equal, a weight- or volume-based fee for individual, home, or business garbage collection may be a step in the right direction. Unfortunately it is rarely if ever the case that all else is equal. Please don’t fall into the trap in thinking that taxes are going to go down simply because fees are going up.

      • Using assessed home value to determine the cost of garbage collection has been an issue for many years, regardless of the historical significance you mention. Since I live in an improvement district and have one of the higher assessed homes, it kills me to see some of the smaller homes putting out 10 times the amount of garbage we generate, knowing they are probably paying half, if that.

        You are right that there are other ways to compute fees for garbage. That is why I urge my neighbors in Cold Spring to do their homework and have some input before a decision is made.

  6. Subtract around $71 every two weeks times 24 times per year = $1,704. Now, take that off our taxes.

  7. The proposal that the Village should stop collecting garbage and have Royal Carting do the work, apparently billing residents directly, needs careful scrutiny. Although details are few, it appears that the Village has no plans to reduce highway department staff, so the only benefit would be savings from the investment in equipment. Offsetting that benefit is that we residents would have to dig deep into our own pockets to pay directly for garbage collected in front of our homes, something that is now covered by our property taxes. The net result is we’d all pay more for the same services we are getting today, even if private collection rates are low.

    As it happens, the Special Board for a Comprehensive Plan gave quite a lot of thought to garbage collection, and the Government and Infrastructure Working Group prepared several reports with recommendations in 2008 and 2010. [I led the subcommittee that worked on the project.] Although we considered privatization, we did not recommend it, primarily because of concerns that only one vendor, Royal Carting, would be able to compete for the business. Privatization is great when competition is robust, but can be robbery when it is weak or absent.

    The Village spends about $110,000 annually in direct costs for the collection of garbage. This covers the costs of incineration (about $56,000) and the wages of highway department workers for collecting garbage, and maintenance; to this add the cost of the trucks (depreciation, insurance). Cold Spring produces about 18 tons of trash each week, of which about 30% is recycled. The recycled waste portion costs less to dispose of because we do not have to pay to have it burned (at times it has even been a source of revenue). So the more we recycle, the less the total cost to the Village.

    The Village’s proposal (as it stands) would do nothing to incentivize recycling. The first step to providing financial incentives would be to invoice residents directly for garbage collection, on their water bills (rather than cover the cost with property taxes). From there, the Village would have many options for linking charges to use (by weight, number of bags, etc.), so singles wouldn’t pay as much as families, and those who take the time to recycle and compost are rewarded. This would be fairer, and trim overall costs for the community, just as happened when water use was metered (Municipalities with incentives see recycling rates in the range of 75%.)

    Here are some concerns:

    * Once the Village gets out of the garbage collection business, restarting would be expensive and difficult – even if residents realize they are much worse off.
    * Residents who feel pinched by the higher costs could resort to illegal dumping, something that is a persistent problem in Philipstown, where residents contract for their own pickups.
    * The present arrangement allows for efficient and effective use of a small Highway Department crew of four employees, allowing for vacations, sick leave, and emergencies. So if the Village did want to pass along some tax savings by cutting staff, it would have a Highway crew that would be too small.
    * The announcement of the plan to outsource garbage collection seemed to hint at using Highway Department personnel for other work. What, exactly, does the board have in mind? What justifies this additional expenditure of tax dollars?

    Big changes are coming this year to garbage collection worldwide, with China, the biggest single market, cutting back sharply on what recycled material it will accept. Do we really want to shift the burden to individual residents, just when we need the leverage from organizing these services as a community?

  8. Did everyone forget about the discussion at the Town Board meeting a few months back about merging the Cold Spring Highway Department into the Town Highway Department? This is the first step toward that. Highway employees will work for Philipstown with no loss of jobs, we hope. Always look past the current issue to see what the real goal is.

  9. I was unaware of that discussion, Tom, but glad to hear it. Makes sense to get it on the table and look at the pros/cons, one of which is vacating the highway department property next to Riverview.

    On the garbage issue, Michael Armstrong’s letter sums everything up very well, although I’m interested that the Royal “test run” will begin at 4 a.m. rather than the usual 1 a.m. or so. Back during the comprehensive plan, a few of us wondered why they start so early. The stated reason was to beat the rush at the incineration plant. I took a trip down there one day around 10 a.m., didn’t see any backup, and was told that was normal. Maybe try a later start time with the local crew as the next test.

    • Pete Henderson makes a good point about collecting trash at night. Some residents have complained about the noise. The real issue with daytime collection may have to do with crew preference for night work, since the bottleneck at Charles Point does not seem to exist.

      One possibility would be for the Cold Spring crew to collect Nelsonville’s trash. Cold Spring’s normal Tuesday collection route for regular garbage requires two trips to Charles Point (where the trash is incinerated), given the capacity of the truck. The second truck, however, is typically only a quarter to half full. The additional time (about four hours) for the Cold Spring Highway Department to collect Nelsonville trash may be accommodated with relatively few crewing adjustments, and the second truck would be closer to full – a real economy.

      Nelsonville spends much more per capita to have its garbage and recycling collected by Royal Carting than Cold Spring spends doing it as a municipal service. Nelsonville spends roughly $65,000 for 628 residents, or just over $100 per resident per year. If you add a generous $40,000 per year for equipment depreciation/replacement to Cold Spring’s direct costs, and the total cost comes to $150,000, Cold Spring’s 2,000 residents pay approximately $75 each. In fairness, Nelsonville gets more services – Royal provides residents standardized containers to facilitate mechanical hoisting, and once a year pick-ups of dumpster trash like appliances.

  10. Question: Outside of Cold Spring, what does the rest of the town of Philipstown do for garbage pickup? Any improvement districts or other taxpayer funded pickups? Do most people have individual contracts?