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Trustees Ponder Revisions to Sanitation Pick-Up and Recycling Program as well as LED Streetlights

CACThe Scarsdale Board of Trustees kicked off a busy evening this past Tuesday by hearing recommendations on how the village can further its conservation efforts and save money in the process. Specifically, the Scarsdale Sustainability and Municipal Services Committees reviewed proposals on modifications to Scarsdale's sanitation and recycling operations and LED street lighting.

Sanitation Operations Study/Increasing Recycling

The Scarsdale Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) presented an in depth "Sanitation Study," which identified service and operations improvements, and ways to increase recycling while reducing trash.

The analysis shows that Scarsdale already boasts one of the highest levels of sanitation services and recycling rates in Westchester County. In 2016, our residents generated just over 19,000 tons of waste and 65 percent of it was recycled. However, the recycling rate was, and continues to be, driven by the village's high percentage of yard waste, rather than commingled or paper recyclables. In addressing Scarsdale's Municipal Services Committee, CAC Chairman Ron Schulhof reported, "We're doing an amazing job... but we want our recycling rate to be higher and we looked for areas that we could improve."

While we may be doing an amazing job, it isn't easy. Commingled and paper recyclables are picked up every other week; residents have trouble storing two-weeks worth of recyclables and end up throwing some in the trash; and, many cannot get to the recycling center to dispose of food scraps. As a result, Scarsdale still disposes of approximately 6,600 tons of trash each year (40 pounds per household each week), which is incinerated at a cost of $28 per ton. So, addressing items that are recyclable or can be donated will continue the village's efforts to reduce total trash, improve the environment and reduce cost.

Based on its research and close collaboration with the Scarsdale Sanitation Department, and to expand recycling efforts, the CAC recommended three additions to sanitation services:

• Increase the frequency of commingled and paper recycling pickup to once per week;
• Launch weekly curbside pickup of food scraps for recycling; and
• Site a furniture donation container at the Scarsdale Recycling Center.

The committee believes these services will make it easier for residents to recycle, reduce the amount of space they need to store recyclables, and offer more recycling options, while providing the village with significant savings.

However, to implement these additional services and avoid large costs, two changes are required:

• Commingled recycling pick up will move to the curb (as paper recycling is now); and,recyclingcan
• Pickups that fall on a holiday will not be rescheduled during that week.

The CAC also recommends trash, yard waste or leaf collection service remain the same.

While the estimated cost of the proposed changes is projected to be between $13,000 and $26,000, it is expected that, by reducing trash, the village will reduce its disposal fees. In addition, the committee advises a capital investment of $3,500 to add a furniture donation container, through a partnership with Furniture Warehouse, a local nonprofit.

In addressing the proposed changes, Schulhof outlined a number of benefits. "Recycling weekly will alleviate residents' storage and it's going to reduce the amount of handling. at the metrics, comparable communities that pick up weekly have higher recycling rates." With regard to food scraps, Schulhof stated, "We know that while the drop off site has been successful, not all residents can participate at the drop off site. Picking up (food scraps) will open this program, in practical terms, to a much higher percentage of residents." About furniture donation, Schulhof explained, "When you donate furniture now, you have to drive it some distance or wait for a truck to pick it up. By having a drop off site here, not just for large pieces but for an end table or mirror, you provide convenience for residents and support those in need."

Superintendent Salanitro said, "The information in this report is extremely accurate and we can support the CAC's recommendations through our existing operations. The more methods we implement to increase recycling, the better." He also indicated that less trash will translate into lower disposal fees for the village. "I think that we'll see a drastic decrease in our overall weights through increased food scrap recycling and reuse of furniture." He continued, "That's where the weight is. The metrics work in our favor when we reduce municipal solid waste components. "

While the trustees were impressed with the committee's report and recommendations, there were concerns about residents' reactions to service changes. Trustee Carl Finger mentioned, "When the public learns that we're considering these recommendations, I think it's important that we get some feedback." He went on, "I'm a little concerned about ... people saying 'I like my services. I don't want any change to my services.'" Trustee Deborah Pekarek, while supportive of the CAC's recommendations, agreed with Finger, "The need for some kind of public discussion is real. Although we're giving a lot, we are taking something."

Trustee Seth Ross supported the recommendations, stating, "It appears that the cost is slight and that the risk is very small. Any of the measures being taken can be modified or reversed if the program isn't working as planned. These are major factors in helping the board to support this proposal."

Mayor Dan Hochvert, also in favor of the recommendations, congratulated the CAC and village staff on its work, stating, "The best thing about this report is that it is the closest collaboration between an advisory council and staff. It's a great report."

Bob Harrison of Fox Meadow Road, said, " Being in my 70s, (this) is not an improvement in service, it's a reduction. I've now got to lug recyclables out to the street, when, today, the sanitation person comes down my driveway. I support recycling but I'm very concerned. I think you've got to hear from the entire community."

The Municipal Services Committee supported the CAC's recommendations and proposed further review by the Scarsdale Board of Trustees. It is expected that the board will request a public information session to obtain community feedback and address questions.

LED Streetlight Project

The Ad Hoc Committee on LED Streetlights presented an update on the recently concluded LED streetlight pilot, which covered both high traffic and residential roads throughout the village. The study found that LED lighting will help Scarsdale reduce energy use, lower its electric and maintenance costs and improve lighting.

The committee recommended moving forward with replacing streetlights at those locations that were tested over the past three months. New LED fixtures would be installed on "high traffic" roads: White Plains/Post Road, Mamaroneck Road, Weaver Street and Heathcote Road (between Post Road and Five Corners); and new LED bulbs would be installed on residential streets within Crane-Berkeley and Secor Farms, to preserve the current, decorative "Town and Country" fixtures.

In total, 301 streetlights would be replaced, or 15 percent of the 1,976 streetlights in Scarsdale. The committee also plans to continue research for streetlights on residential roads in preparation for a residential road pilot planned for summer 2018.

While the upfront cost of installing these fixtures is approximately $60,000, projected savings is estimated at $25,000 (resulting in a short payback period of 2.8 years). The village will be able to realize additional cost savings by using in-house personnel to install the fixtures, rather than outsourcing the work. According to Benny Salanitro, Scarsdale Superintendent of Public Works, "Installation (of pilot fixtures) was smooth and relatively straightforward. These fixtures happen to be available through a 'piggyback' program we have with Hempstead (NY), so we'll be able to purchase them quickly should we decide to move forward."

Because the village has available funds in the current year's capital budget to cover the cost of the new lighting, the Scarsdale Sustainability Committee approved the recommendations and directed staff to proceed with purchase and installation.

Laura Halligan is a Scarsdale-based writer, editor and marketing consultant. She is principal of Pinch Hit Prose and provides communications services to entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofits.

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