Sticker Shock: Far Higher Township Trash Bills Arrive

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – For a majority of Lower Pottsgrove property owners, the municipal equivalent of sticker shock arrived at their mailboxes Thursday (Jan. 13, 2022).

When the day’s bills were delivered to homes and businesses alike within the township, they learned the annual cost of their trash disposal services has risen this year by about 60 percent, due to a five-year waste hauling contract with J.P. Mascaro and Sons of Audubon. The charge for township garbage removal, which totaled $160 during 2021, has jumped to $254 in 2022.

The agreement, and its accompanying annual fee hikes, were authorized by the township Board of Commissioners almost 16 months ago, on Sept. 24, 2020.

The township initially advertised for garbage hauling bids in June 2020, more than a year ahead of the expiration date on the last contract, also with Mascaro. Commissioners were looking for an agreement covering a minimum of three years, with possible extensions of one or two years. They hoped several of the roughly two dozen trash haulers located within 25 miles of the township would express interest.

Only one, Mascaro, submitted a bid in response by the Aug. 10 (2020) deadline. It was for a five-year term, no less, and offered no extensions. It carried a price tag that increased customers’ costs by a total of about $100 over the period.

Commissioners met several times after the bid opening to discuss the contract, and any possible options to it. Mascaro representatives arrived twice to talk about why their price was so much higher than before.

Company costs had risen, they explained in detail. Processors were paying less to handle recycled materials, they added. And 5-1/2 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, township residents working from home, or not working at all, were generating 24 percent more trash tonnage monthly to be carted away, Mascaro claimed.

After some research commissioners concluded there were two alternatives, although they said both carried risks.

They could wait until the existing contract neared expiration and ask for bids again, hoping the price would drop with other firms competing. But commissioners worried no one else would bid, or bids would climb even higher than the one Mascaro first submitted.

They also considered eliminating the contract. That would allow property owners to make their own deals with trash haulers. The board doubted those prices would be any better, though, and feared prices might be worse. They also were concerned by the prospect of having different haulers’ trucks on township roads several days a week, rather than on a single day.

Ultimately they decided Mascaro was a known vendor, with which the township had a healthy relationship over many years. They declared themselves satisfied with Mascaro’s service, and believed that satisfaction would continue into the future. In the end they voted to accept its deal, and said it appeared to be the choice suiting “the best interest of taxpayers.”

Thursday’s bills were simply a belated reminder of that decision.

Garbage can photo by Charles Deluvio via Unsplash, used under license