Vornlocker: Tree Limb Cleanup Should Be Done By Early May; No Need To Hire Contractors

Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said April 10 that the tree limb pickup project should be completed by early May.

Pickup of tree limbs downed in the several nor’easters that struck the township over the last month should be completed by early May, Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said at the Township Council’s April 10 meeting.

Vornlocker said that the Public Works Department has a full contingent of trucks and workers attacking the problem, and there is no reason to hire outside contractors to help, as the township did after Hurricane Sandy six years ago.

The township is gambling that the winter storms are over for this year, stripping dump trucks of their salt spreaders so they may be used for the limb pickup, Vornlocker said.

“So keep your fingers crossed that the warm weather coming this weekend is here to stay becase we have them all stripped down back to dump trucks again,” he said. “That means now we’re running two full crews with two full complenents of vehicles to take the debris back and forth. That means we’ve increased our productivity with the additional trucks from about 50 truckloads a day to about 100 truckloads, so we’ve just about doubled our cleanup effort per day.”

“We’re going to continue to run those crews till 5 p.m. every day, and we’re going to continue to run two crews on Saturdays,” Vornlocker said.

The volume of debris that needs to be picked up is on par with that of Sandy, Vornlocker said.

“With Hurricane Sandy, we did an emergency appropriation of $300,000 for additional trucks to transport this debris and contracted with a local landscape company to do the cleanup,” he said. “The reason we did that then was that the debris was not only in people’s backyards as an inconvenience, it was across roads throughout the town, where it was a matter of emergency and necessity.”

“I don’t deem this an emergency, and I don’t deem this a necessity,” Vornlocker said. “We are providing a service at great expense right now, and we’re putting aside other springtime operations.”

“I wouldn’t constitute it as any sort of hazardous situation,” he said. “It’s sticks piled up alongside of the road. It doesn’t constitute a health issue, it’s sticks piled up alongside of the road. The public works department is doing a fantastic job and they’re working hard to get it done, but everyone just needs to be patient and we’ll continue to work day in and day out until it’s done.”

But Township Councilman James Vassanella, (D-Ward 5) disagreed, suggesting that the township should perhaps look into hiring outside help so DPW workers could get back to regular spring projects.

“I respectfully disagree with our manager, because if somebody had the amount of sticks and piles of dead branches and trees and what’s out there hanging out, I believe at this point they’d be in violation of our own ordinances,” Vassanella said. “I do see this as a health hazard, because it’s an attraction for rodents, it’s drying out, it’s much more flammable. It’s blocking in some cases mailboxes, sidewalks, walkways.”

“Spring is here, people are bicycling, people are going with strollers,” he said. “I could see several reasons why I, and I think others, would be concerned that it is possibly, well, I believe it is, but heading toward possibly being a health issue.”

“And the manager’s done a wonderful job  in balancing what is a horrendous situation, probably the worst I’ve seen since Sandy,” Vassanella said. “So I applaud his efforts also. I’m just wondering at this point if we need to bring in some outside contractors so we don’t put extraordinary pressure on DPW and get it to where the springtime endeavors they have to get to don’t get postponed to long into the future because obviously we’re all waiting for this spring more than most other years with the more than usual bad weather in March and April.”

Vassanella asked if any other council member thought that an outside contractor should be hired.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” Vornlocker said. “I told you that I don’t believe it represents a hazard. It’s not the entire public works department out there, and I anticipate that it will be done hopefully within the last week of April, the first week of May. But people have woodpiles throughout the town that is the same material that sits for their fireplaces year-round. I don’t think sticks on the side of the street constitutes health hazard.”

“I support the manager’s position,” Township Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) said. “Rodents go where there’s food, not where there are branches which they are not going to be able to eat.”

Vornlocker said that one thing that is delaying the project is that some residents are putting out more than just those limbs felled during the storm.

“What I see unfortunately is residents who have now contracted with tree contractors to do not just cleanup, but are now taking advantage of an opportunity in having trees removed and having trees trimmed that are alive and not dead and putting them out on the street, too,” he said.


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