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South Whitehall approves waste contract at over 62% price hike for next year

South Whitehall municipal building
Olivia Marble
South Whitehall Township's municipal building.

  • The South Whitehall Board of Commissioners approved a five-year waste management contract with J.P. Mascaro & Sons after debate over multiple bids at a prior meeting
  • The approved bid, the lowest five-year quote the township received, is set to increase next year's cost for the township 62.54%.
  • A potential low-income senior discount was discussed as a potential under the new contract

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. — After a debate and tabling at their prior meeting, South Whitehall Township supervisors on Wednesday approved a new five-year waste management contract that will increase next year's cost for the township by 62.54%.

The contract with J.P. Mascaro & Sons, replaces current service provider Waste Management, who declined to further extend its existing contract another year.

At the prior meeting, it was discussed how over the projected five-year period, J.P. Mascaro & Sons quoted the township a cost of $21,634,536 for five years and Waste Management a cost of $22,393,838.

Whitetail Disposal made a bid of $30,331,143.88.

Representatives from Mascaro and Waste Management attributed the increase to post-COVID-19-pandemic inflation and rising costs of labor.

That's not a phenomenon unique to South Whitehall Township, with many garbage collection contracts increasing at times over 100% in year-on-year costs.

"The increase in the cost of waste disposal is going to hit residents hard," Commissioner Brad Osborne said. "They may not realize that until they get their first bill of the year, and I say that with respect, because your business is a tough business.

"It's significant, it really is. It's synonymous to an estimated 33% tax increase if you want to put it in terms of that. If it were in terms of school board increases, 9%. This will get people's attention. It's not your fault. It is the way it is in the world today."

With the new contract approved, Mascaro's quote for 2024 services has been listed at $4,152,276 for the township, up from $2,554,554 in 2023.

Waste Management proposed less of an initial increase than Mascaro at $3,923,546, but quoted a higher five-year cost than its competitor.

According to documents presented at the meeting, Mascaro's proposal comes to an average of $158.63 per unit per quarter.

Township officials recommended the five-year bids over the three-year alternatives because of "the significant unknowns with respect to the solid waste management industry over the next several years related to projected reduced landfill capacity in the immediate region, increased disposal of solid waste volumes based on population growth and consumer habits, decreased marketability of recycling materials, inflation, and increased capital costs."

Commissioners also agreed with the recommendation to have staff begin seeking a third-party consultant to evaluate the waste management program and look into recommended methods of increasing awareness of waste and recycling program alternatives in the township.

230309 South Whitehall Board of Commissioners.jpg
Olivia Marble
South Whitehall Township's Board of Commissioners

Commissioner Jacob Roth noted the importance of supervision when awarding the contract.

"I do think whichever way the board decides to go awarding the contract, and whoever wins award the contract, we should fully enforce the provisions of the contract," Roth said.

"To make sure that any repeat conduct that falls short of requirements in the contract is addressed and rectified for the benefit of our residents."

In regard to educational assistance, part of that includes the recommendation to seek a recycling technical assistance program grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection to "comprehensively evaluate" the waste program.

"I'm really encouraged to hear that our board will consider an evaluation of waste disposal in general, so that a number of years ahead of time, the future board is not sitting here with another such increase, or even greater, because we haven't done anything, because we haven't taken the time to understand our habits, how they affect us," Commissioner Brad Osborne said.

Commissioner David Kennedy spoke highly of the Mascaro service he observed in Bridgeport, where after some waste missed the truck, a staff member took care to clean it all and place it in the refuse vehicle.

"Long story short was if we get any kind of service like that in South Whitehall Township it would be very impressive," Kennedy said. "I was impressed by that."

J.P. Mascaro III of the J.P. Mascaro & Sons company said, "We're very excited to once again be selected as the vendor in South Whitehall Township.

"We understand they have a very comprehensive and detailed waste and recycling program, and we look forward to providing excellent service to the residents of South Whitehall for years to come."

Senior and low-income discount

Following the prior meeting's discussions, an outline of a potential low-income senior discount program was included in proposals.

It states how considering a $30-per-quarter discount to seniors with an income of equal to or less than $35,999 could give discounts to 615 households.

It says if the senior low-income discount program were to be offered, the price would increase to $162.11/quarter for the five-year JP Mascaro contract.

Township staff recommended to only implement a senior discount program with a low-income requirement because of the number of seniors currently residing in the township.

Janet Rainart, a resident who ]initially spoke to discourage continued affiliation with Waste Management, spoke highly of the proposal, noting other municipalities' use of similar programs.

"I'm so thankful to hear you say about a senior discount," Rainart said. "It would help any of us senior citizens on a very fixed income who are trying to get by, keeping our homes, keeping our taxes paid, keeping our water that has now gone up — getting that paid.

"We all just want to pay our bills, and we want to be able to pay our bills."

Parameters of a senior discount program would be finalized as part of the 2024 solid waste and recycling fees resolution that would be established during the budgeting process.

Other speakers asked to consider supporting a discount for paying the full year's bills up front, and noted the need for township vigilance when it came to ensuring the trash collection trucks used are up to date.

Other actions

Also Wednesday, commissioners held a moment of silence to honor former South Whitehall Chief of Police Donald K. MacConnell, former South Whitehall Officer Scott Allen Smith, and former Director of Lehigh County Emergency Management John Kalynych, all who died in August.

The board also passed some slight amendments to the township's zoning ordinance related to exceptions for height limitations, meaning that attached chimneys, water tanks, antennas and similar structures can exceed the height limitations established so long as they don't cumulatively exceed 140% of the base height for the building. Township officials said the amendment is a clarifying measure.

Another zoning-related ordinance approved the use of "Zoning Certificate of Use" as a "better tool with which compliance with the zoning ordinance may be achieved."

A certificate certifies that a project or building is in compliance with applicable ordinances, and buildings operating a zoned use without such a certificate may face enforcement action.

Later in the meeting, resolutions granted a sidewalk grading plan and installation of two ATM kiosks in the Tilghman Square shopping center.

The board also debated, but ultimately shot down 3-2, letting township police buy four Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs for its fleet, with commissioners Kennedy, Hodges and Kelly opting for an informational session on the purchase comparing it to other options.