TC votes 3-2 to stay the course with recycling collector

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Maplewood Township Committee narrowly voted to award a contract to F. Basso Jr. Rubbish Removal to continue as the township’s recycling collector, despite Business Administrator Sonia Alves-Viveiros’ recommendation that the bid request be revised and released again. Two bids for the contract were received; one cost more than Maplewood had budgeted and the other was from Basso, who has been the township’s recycling collector for the last six years. Alves-Viveiros said that Basso should be rejected due to poor performance, but the TC voted 3-2 to award the contract to Basso. Mayor Frank McGehee and Committeeman Vic DeLuca cast the opposing votes.

Basso’s offer came in at $293,990, while the higher bidder’s quote was $390,000.

“We have had this contractor for a number of years and have had numerous complaints, and I and my predecessor have had to address the Township Committee regarding the various missed locations and times where nothing was collected,” Alves-Viveiros said at the meeting. “I’d like to go out and rebid this as soon as possible. We understand that the recycling business is challenging, and, looking back at our budgets as far as 2015, we’re at triple the price for what we used to budget.”

Dave Basso, the operations manager of the recycling company, was at the meeting to speak about the contract. He said he had heard about missed collections in Maplewood in September.

“In September 2019, I was informed by the town attorney of missed collections that occurred in August 2019,” Basso said. “This was the first time I had knowledge of these missed collections. I was never informed by former director Calvin Bell or anyone from the staff.”

Bell’s employment with the township was terminated in January for his alleged failure to pay contractors, manage overtime within the DPW and improve department morale.

After Basso became aware of the problems, Basso said the company did an evaluation of the staff working in Maplewood. Several employees were disciplined for missed collections and others were fired.

“Retraining on new policies and procedures occurred,” Basso said. “Employees were instructed on what’s expected of them and how to perform their job duties. Since the implementation of these new policies and procedures, we have had zero missed collections in the last four weeks.”

In addition, GPS systems were added to the trucks, allowing Basso to track where they are at specific times.

Committeewoman Nancy Adams brought up that many residents’ recycling cans were thrown or left in the street, where they have been run over by passing cars. Basso admitted the company has replaced broken cans.

“That’s an issue in all towns,” he said. “My guys are not perfect, but from that September and moving forward, I’ve almost restaffed the whole crew in Maplewood.”

Basso added that a supervisor drives down each street in town after the initial recycling pickup to make sure nothing was missed.

“I am impressed by the steps that Mr. Basso has taken and that his organization has taken to address our concerns and to put processes in place that should improve services going forward,” Committeeman Greg Lembrich said at the meeting, saying he was open to accepting the bid.

Basso said an option to bring the collection cost down even further is dual stream, meaning that paper and cardboard is collected one week and plastic and cans are collected the next. When everything is collected together, the company’s cost to separate it rises.

“I’m concerned about performance,” DeLuca said at the meeting. “I’ve gotten a lot of complaints about it. I’m not convinced we should give you the contract. Dual stream may be something we can look at, but our eyes are on the prize right now and that’s your performance. I’m sorry to say, but you haven’t been a good provider to Maplewood over the long term.”

Adams was open to awarding the contract to Basso but wanted to be sure the township could terminate it if performance does not improve.

“I’m hesitant to give this contractor the leeway he’s asking for, but I’m also willing to give them a shot,” she said. “But I want some parameters that, if performance is not up to it, we can cancel the contract or cause financial penalties.”

Deputy Mayor Dean Dafis agreed, despite being skeptical that Basso didn’t receive complaints until September.

“All of us have received complaints time and time again, and I find it incredulous that those complaints did not make it back to the contractor,” Dafis said. “Maybe once or twice, but not all of them. That being said, the contractor has acknowledged poor performance and came here tonight to illustrate how he has been mitigating that poor performance. I would give them one final chance, and if things have not improved, then we can move on.”

The new contract with Basso will go into effect March 1.