The township committee was one vote shy of getting a new street sweeper through the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust 2012 Loan Program at Thursday’s caucus meeting.
“You talk about the services that people have come to expect. We live in a town like that. We live in a great town," Committeeman Sean Sharkey said. "But unfortunately these are times when we’re going to have to cut back on things that we expect. I can’t justify it.”
In May, the township received a loan of up to $326,000 for a sweeper that was priced at $225,000. The township would have to bond for the sweeper and would receive the money back the following year, Township Administrator Veronica Laureigh said.
The township would pay it back over a 10-year period at $31,000 annually, Mayor Gary Quinn said.
Public Works Director Casey Parker emphasized the importance of purchasing a new street sweeper for not only aesthetic reasons but for the safety of residents traveling on roads where there’s a heavy built up of silt and sand, he said.
Public Works is required under storm water management rules and regulations to identify streets that need to be cleaned at least once a month, Parker said.
“I think the need is there to acquire a street sweeper so we have another piece of equipment in our stock,” Parker said.
The department has three street sweepers on hand currently, Parker said. One is a 1987 mechanical sweeper, which is rarely used; another is a 2001 dual purpose sweeper that is used primarily to clean catch basins; and the third is a productive 2004 sweeper air regenerative unit.
“It certainly is not enough to keep pace with the roads we have and sweep the streets as much as I would like to sweep them and keep them at a condition that I feel is needed,” Parker said of the 2004 sweeper.
“I do think we need that second sweeper and getting this grant opportunity, I think is a wonderful opportunity and we should try to hold onto that,” he said.
By law, the township is only required to sweep streets where the speed limit is at least 35 mph but if Public Works limited their sweeping, basins could get blocked, Parker said.
“You get a large accumulation of silt and sand on the roadways. If you don’t get that off, eventually the runoff will take that to your storm drains, which would lead to your lakes,” Parker said.
Lacey Township has about 150 to 160 miles of streets, Parker said. To effectively sweep each street, Public Works has to make two passes each way and that could take a couple months.
“All we need is the right equipment to do the job because the work is out there,” Parker said. “We’re here to maintain the town and one of the very important aspects of that is keeping our streets reasonably clean,” Parker said.
With 0 percent interest on 75 percent of the loan, the township is presented with an opportunity that would have been “nice savings” for the residents, Mayor Gary Quinn said. Also, the township had already expended $13,000.
“Inevitably we’re either going to cut the service out or you have to provide Casey with the tools to do the job or not to do the job,” Committeeman David Most said.
Sharkey could not see spending the money on a sweeper when the township has turned away several other capital requests, including fire trucks and rescue equipment.
“We are a business,” Quinn said. “Part of running a business in this capacity is having to borrow money for equipment.”
There is township equipment that is falling a part, Quinn said. The township will be looking at a larger investment over a shorter period of time in the future.
“This is a no brainer,” Lacey resident Robert Capparelli said in a letter to the township. Capparelli is the Superintendent of Public Works in South Plainfield. “These grants are very difficult to obtain, very competitive, and a drawn out process that should be pursued at the fullest extent possible. They’re a win-win situation for the taxpayers.”
Forked River resident Regina Discenza encourages other residents to rake the storm drains outside their homes to help Public Works.
“There’s got to be a better way than spending that money,” she said.
The sweeper needed four votes to pass. Committeewoman Helen DelaCruz was absent from the committee meeting but has expressed her opposition to purchasing a new street sweeper in the past.
A second ordinance for the sweeper will not be on the committee’s agenda for Dec. 22.