Delran Mayor Gary Catrambone’s 9-29-21 message to the township brought the bad news of a significant increase in the solid waste contract that was signed the previous evening by Council President Tyler Burrell and Delran’s Clerk, Jamey Eggers. The contract was awarded to the only bidder, Republic Services, for $822,030 for just the first year, which is a 45% increase from the previous amount of $458,892 for the prior year of trash collection services. In the Township’s statement they claim that “The Township sent bid packages out to all the major trash companies that service this area and allowed a 60-day response period to promote competition.”, but that does not seem to be the case from the emails provided by the Township through an OPRA request.
The emails provided by the Township show a much different story, with a total of 9 emails sent or received on behalf of the Solid Waste bidding process, most of them being companies asking for the for the bid specifications, which should have been available online, but were not. Four of the emails requested bid packages, four others were returning the bid packages to the companies, and one was a company saying thank you to the Township. While the Township did respond with bid packages, they did not do so until July 8th, some 9 days after the request for proposals were issued by the township, leaving only 51 days to submit a bid.
On August 5th a mysterious email was sent to the Township from a reporter from NJ.com, Linda O’Brien, asking if Delran is planning a homecoming celebration for the world renowned soccer star, Carli Lloyd. I say it is mysterious due to the fact that it wasn’t until 9 days later that Carli Lloyd announced her retirement to the world, yet from this email one can assume the planning for the retirement party had already begun. Hundreds of emails were sent and received over the next two months regarding the planning of the retirement party, all done while the solid waste bids were all but forgotten about.
Ironically, on the very same day that the Solid Waste Bids were due of August 31st, the Township received it’s first proposal from Starlite, the company that Delran hired to provide the stage, audio and lighting for the retirement party. The $150,000 proposal was for a stage, lighting, audio and video services for a two and a half hour party in a small town. That proposal would later be decreased to $61,500, but in a chain of emails between Starlite and Colin Rafferty, that amount still created an “issue with the bidding threshold” and Colin asked for a call “immediately”. In an email just 4 days later Colin wrote that the Township’s Solicitor, Sal Siciliano, “has directed me that it must be two separate contracts. Will that be a problem?”. The contracts were then split in two so the “issue with the bidding threshold” that Colin had mentioned, was not an issue anymore.
What was an issue at that same time was the fact that Delran had only received one bid for the solid waste contract, a contract that the Township claimed “The time has come to award the contract, as this is a necessary service that MUST be provided to our residents, and it is regrettable that only one company submitted a bid.”, but was that really the case?
In January of 2020 Moorestown NJ was faced with a similar situation when the company that provides their solid waste service exercised their right not to extend the option in their contract with the town, yet at that point the township did not have enough time for the 60 days required to put out a proposal for a public bid. Moorestown requested a 30 day extension from Central Jersey Waste so they could have enough time to legally seek competitive bids to get the best deal on behalf of their tax payers, and Central Jersey Waste agreed. After the 60 period two bids were submitted to Moorestown, one from Central Jersey Waste and one from Republic Services, with the Township choosing Central Jersey waste for an increase of about 20% over the previous contract year.
Moorestown has a population of 20,355, and Delran has a population of 16,524, which is roughly 81% of Moorestown’s population. Delran’s 3 year contract with Republic Service totals $2,566,052, which is 9% higher than the 3 year total for Moorestown’s solid waste contract even though Delran has 19% less population. One would think that less people equals less cost, but in this case it is clear that it does not. While Delran claimed they were reaching out to all of the trash companies in the area seeking bids, they were actually seeking donations to plan a party, that once you read the schedule, can only be seen as a Democratic campaign event.
A total of 12 politicians graced the $39,000 stage for the two and a half hour party that wound up costing well over $100,000, held conveniently just 2 weeks before the election. As dozens of invitations were being sent to politicians, and numerous donations were being sought from local businesses and even major organizations such as Nike regarding a two hour party, the solid waste contract that was looming was not even a thought. Instead of the Township worrying about a multi-million dollar 3 year contact that should have been their priority, they were worried about giving inflated contracts to the mayor’s nephew and figuring out how to split the contracts so they can circumvent the law to throw their shindig before the election.