At the Feb. 4 work session of the Governing Body of the City held at the Phillip L. Pittore Justice Center, Mayor Julia Fahl and city council weighed the matter of keeping the yard open to the public.
The mayor noted that there have been several complaints from the State Department of Health, nearby residents of Quarry Street, and that inappropriate dumping has been a concern.
“We have two options,” Fahl said. “We can either invest in having a public dump in the city of Lambertville. Or we shut the dump. Those are our two options.”
In attendance was resident Judy Gleason, who thought closing the “dump” (as it was referred to by many) is “a huge negative, bad thing.”
Mayor Fahl defended the decision.
“This checks a lot of boxes,” she said. “First, the state and DEP have asked small municipalities to start shutting these down. And the cost for us would have been a huge expense to the city.” Fahl also underscored the costs of compliance: leasing or buying a new industrial-sized dumpster, trucks and driver training.
The issues were not just about finances and health, but City Clerk Cindy Ege also indicated the department frowned upon people coming into the city DPW garage yard as far as liability, or “not having safe means of ingress and egress.”
A call to the Head of the Hunterdon County Department of Health and County Health Officer, Karen DeMarco, confirmed they received a complaint in November 2018 about the site, and performed an inspection under state regulation for a convenience center, strictly a place for passenger vehicles for residents.
“Currently it does not meet the standard for a convenience center. There were issues of public health concern; they would be out of compliance with solid waste regulations,” DeMarco said.
She noted that there was a lack of monitoring on dumping, a lack of guidance on types of materials accepted, and that the brush pile “creates the environment that might attract vermin or create odor issues.” During the monitoring period, illegal items disposed included household hazardous waste, propane tanks, air conditioners and non-recyclable materials from both residents and non-residents.
Fahl acknowledged that closing the yard would be an inconvenience to the general public, but noted that the public works department is stretched thin, and that the move the yard would “provide them the time and the space to better maintain the city.”
Councilman Wardell Sanders questioned whether stopping public access to the yard and having public works collect all of the leaves and brush would be freeing them up or causing more overall work. Fahl contended that it was preferable to paying someone an hourly rate to stay in one place and monitor the facility.
Council President Beth Asaro asked if maybe opening the yard to the public once a month could offer a compromise, and Fahl acknowledged that was “a great idea.”
Fahl then responded that for the next meeting, council will be provided with the health department’s report on the city DPW yard and cost estimates for getting it back to working standard.
“We’ll make sure we’re good on communication about this issue,” she said.
During Fahl’s office hours on Feb. 5, she expanded on this to the Free Press.
“We have found the vast majority of what’s being dumped at the yard is from non-resident contractors that are refusing to get dumpsters for their work sites, rather than your average Lambertville resident who has a little too much recycling,” she said.
Electronics recycling has already stopped. A possible sign of broader global trends, Goodwill picked up their final e-cycling at the yard last week. Residents who want to drop off electronic recycling will now have to go to the Route 12 Complex in Raritan Township, which collects e-cycling three times a year.
The public can still access the yard during regular hours for the entirety of February. Mayor Fahl highlighted that residents can ask more questions during her office hours, a Facebook Live on Monday Feb. 11 and the regular Governing Body of the City Meeting on Feb. 19. Karen DeMarco and county department of health officials will be present. The status of the DPW garage yard will be on the Feb. 19 meeting agenda, but it does not have be shut by ordinance and does not have to be voted on by council.