Village of Pelham board delays vote on buying trash trucks until Tuesday; trustees indicate okay likely


Oakridge Waste & Recycling website

Current contractor Oakridge Waste & Recycling will be replaced by a Village of Pelham sanitation department in January.

The Village of Pelham Board of Trustees decided Sept. 14 to postpone for two weeks a vote on the purchase of four garbage trucks, a step at the core of the board’s plan to create a village sanitation department and end the use of outside contractors.

The board meeting began with a resolution approving the truck acquisition on the agenda, but due to the abundance of public comments opposed to the move, the board tabled the resolution. The trustees next meet on Tuesday.

Members of the board said that though their decision on the vote likely will not change, delaying the vote was the best for the Pelham community because of opposition raised to buying diesel trucks rather than electric vehicles as well as calls to wait until more eco-friendly technology is available.

“I do think we should put it off for two weeks and maybe let some of the tension dissipate,” said Trustee Lisa Hill-Reis.

Creating an in-house garbage collection service “adds a tremendous amount of flexibility and efficiency,” said Mayor Chance Mullen. 

Many residents on the Zoom meeting came out to speak publicly against the decision. Concerns about owning diesel trucks for the next 20 years arose, as well as the idea that even if the village decides to sell the trucks when a more sustainable option becomes feasible, Pelham will still be contributing to pollution when the trucks are used elsewhere.

Some residents said the board had not spent enough time researching alternative options. With most of the planning for the project happening over the summer, taxpayers spoke out on their weariness that the board rushed the process. They said extending the contract with the current sanitation provider, Oakridge Waste & Recycling, by a year would give the village enough time to take into consideration more sustainable options. 

The village board approved resolutions in July and August to sell $2.36 million in bonds, the bulk of the money designated to fund the purchase of the trucks and other equipment, including toters for all village homeowners. Toters are the type of garbage can a truck is able to pick up at the curb and automatically dump.

Under the bond resolutions, the village may first issue bond anticipation notes, which are short-term borrowing instruments, to raise the money, and then replace that debt by selling bonds with maturities ranging from five to 15 years.

This new sanitation department is to be in place by December 2022, said Mullen in a previous interview.

“Launching this service is budget neutral—a key factor when deciding whether or not to move forward—and it will provide far more financial stability for our taxpayers over the long term,” Mullen wrote in a letter to the community.

The idea to bring sanitation in house took form this summer because of the increased costs the village had to bear when it hired Oak Ridge in November 2019. That move, done on an emergency basis, was required because the previous company, Waste Services Inc., lost its county license in August 2019.

Environmental groups and letter writers had been active before the Sept. 14 meeting expressing display at the purchase of the trucks.

“We request that the village pause the process and consider every alternative to committing to the use of diesel trucks for the next 20 years,” said EcoPel in a statement. “While we understand that electric garbage trucks are costlier at present, we feel it is only a matter of time before federal and state sources offer financial incentives so municipalities can electrify their fleets.”