The Chatham Borough Council decided not to permit a second brush pick-up through town in order to catch up on leaf pick-up and keep the budget under control.
Bob Venezia, the head of the borough's Department of Public Works (DPW), said overtime and outside contractors were authorized after the to help pick up branches and trees which came down. As of Monday evening, he said the DPW had picked up brush from over half of the borough.
"I feel confident that we can be done by the end of this week," Venezia said, but he added calls have already come in asking after leaf pick-up and a second brush pick-up.
The department's efforts have focused on brush pick-up since the storm. Of the department's 16 employees, 14 have been working overtime to clear brush from the streets and outside contractors have also been authorized. and other routine maintenance has been put on hold. "We really stripped everything down and put everything we had into brush collection," Venezia said.
Once the DPW has picked up brush from a neighborhood, Venezia and Council Member James Collander said they know many residents have put a second load of brush on the curbs in anticipation of a second pick-up, despite the mulch area behind being open 6 days a week (8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday since the storm.)
Council President Lonergan likened a second brush pick-up to a "kid" wanting a second helping of dinner. "First and foremost we owe this town the ability to go back and finish the job for all residents. That is the focus, primary focus, number one, bar none. ...
"We're now [almost at] Thanskgiving, and [we are] well behind on leaf pick-up. So we can't do it all. To go back and say let's do a second round of brush pick-up and start leaf collection at the same time doesn't work," Lonergan said. "We can't do it all."
Council Member John Holman said under the budget constraints, "we always knew there was going to be a stretch we were going to hit as far as our public services and extraordinary times where we don't have the staff to be able to do this."
"We're telling our DPW to do more than they can possibly do," Collander said. "I think we're putting our DPW in a vise."
"Look, we're going to do what we can," Holman said, but "we're not everybody's landscaper. We've got to make sure we understand that there's a certain amount we're going to be able to do, but the responsibility's going to be on the citizens to clean up a lot of their yard also."
In the end it came down to a question of whether to begin a second round of one service while foregoing the first round of another, along with the balance of manpower and budget.
"We really can't do a second round of [brush] pick-up," Lonergan said to Venezia. "We need you to finish the job, the first round, and begin leaf pick-up as quickly as you can."
The council asked any residents with brush remaining after the first pick-up to take their brush to the mulch area, and asked that people help their neighbors who might not be able to transport brush themselves.
Lonergan and the rest of the council thanked Venezia and the rest of the DPW on the "extraordinary" work they did during and after the snow storm. "We're talking about three things coming together," said Lonergan, "a combination of leaves, snow and branches down. So think about what the DPW had to do on very quick notice. They had to go from having leaf pick-up machines on their trucks to putting [de-icing equipment] and stick pick-up."