Trying to put a lid on trash


Kearny Board of Health personnel have been engaged in a lot of trash talking during the past several months.

Talking about the 12 newly arrived Bigbelly solar-powered trash compactors and efforts to clean up trash dumped on weekends.

With a hefty push from Mayor Alberto Santos and Health Director Ken Pincus, the town has been backing up the talk with action and cash.

Back in mid-September 2014, the town acquired four of the compactors, each of which stands 4-feet-six inches, weighs close to 300 pounds and grinds up refuse tossed inside it. Total cost for the units was $14,539 plus an additional $3,996 for the electrical charge.

They were stationed at intervals along Kearny Ave., within the 200 and 300 blocks, in front of the Public Library, Dunkin’ Donuts, MiniMart and Chase Bank, in place of the old green collectors.

Trouble with the old receptacles, Pincus said, was that they were “trapping litter underneath and creating odors and, in some cases, harborages for animals, whereas with the Bigbellys, the garbage is contained within the units and can’t overflow into the street.”

And the new units are durable, he noted. “They’ve held up well, even through bad storms,” said Pincus.

And they’ve worked the way they’re supposed to, with a wireless setup activating a color-coded message to Public Works indicating when a unit is close to full and when the interior trash collection bag is full and needs replacement.

They’ve worked so well, in fact, that the town has secured 12 more of them – this time, leasing them at a cost of $12,085 annually for a five-year period – plus $3,021 for the solar connection, which, according to Pincus, actually works out to “less per year than what we are paying for the four original ones.”

And, he added, “The same software package is included and there is a warranty on all parts so it’s a really good deal.”

The new “dirty dozen” units have been anchored along other spots on Kearny Ave., on both sides, stretching from the Harrison border north to the 400 block, in front of a Citibank, Laundromat Center, Souchet’s Boutique, Costamar Travel, City Smoke, Subs Galore, QuickChek, Headlinerz Barber, OhMyDog, Arcos Pastries, Lily House and Irma’s Beauty Salon.

One additional unit has been ordered, for another $1,000 per year, to be placed in front of the Chase Bank at Johnston and Kearny Aves., Pincus said.

Then there are the weekend overtime litter patrols that Pincus has instituted to put a dent in the volume of trash that retailers and residents have prematurely placed at curbside on Kearny Ave. and other commercial districts for Monday pickups.

Town ordinance says that on Kearny Ave., Midland Ave., from Kearny to Davis Ave; and Elm St., from Midland north to the railroad tracks, “no refuse or garbage shall be placed on the street from 10 a.m. on Saturday through 5 p.m. on Sunday ….”

(On weekdays, a similar prohibition extends from “no later than 6 a.m. but not prior to 5 p.m. the night before, for the morning collection from Monday through Saturday, holidays excepted. No refuse or garbage shall be placed or remain on the street after 10 a.m. ….”)

Since mid-April 2015, Pincus has been dispatching his two public health investigators William Pettigrew and Cathy Santangelo to ride herd on the weekend violators with backup from the Department of Public Works.

“We have our staff going out with a camera-carrying DPW employee who takes pictures that are date- and time-stamped showing any violations of the ordinance and send those pictures to us so we can use them in [municipal] court,” Pincus said.

“At our discretion, we will issue warnings and/or summonses,” he said.

Town financial records show that since the weekend patrols began last year, Kearny has spent more than $2,500 in overtime through the end of May. During that same period, the town has collected some $2,000 in trash-related fines imposed by the municipal court, although there are still five court cases pending and 19 trash-related summonses newly issued.

Under an amended town ordinance, the owner of a property can be held responsible for accumulated, unattended litter and/or inappropriate placement of curbside trash but Pettigrew and Santangelo said they must carefully review each violation to determine if there is a case to be made against an owner.

Sometimes, they said, the placement of trash straddles a property line so it’s not easy to pinpoint who should he held responsible.

“Some owners are doing their best to comply,” Santangelo said. “Yes, most do care as to what the town looks like.”

Several owners of apartment buildings have talked to their tenants and/or building superintendents to make them aware of the situation and to try and enlist their help to avoid placing trash out prematurely and some owners have posted notices in hallways, she said.

“Since the Bigbellys have been instituted, we’ve noticed less trash in the street,” said Pettigrew.

Still, there continue to be certain “hot spots” along Kearny Ave. in constant need of attention, the investigators said. These include: Johnston through Woodland Ave., Duke through Boyd Sts., Bergen Ave. through Liberty St. and Grove St. to Quincy Ave.


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