UNION — Superstorm Sandy may be over but the rubble from winds that took out hundreds of trees and caused thousands of branches to fall throughout the township has resulted in confusion over pickup schedules.
Rest assured, the township will be picking up branches until every street is cleared, according to Township Administrator Ron Manzella. But it could be awhile because the township has to cover every street in Union and that encompasses ten square miles.
The issue of whether branches were going to be picked up by the township or not first surfaced last week when LocalSource received a number of complaints about the mixed signals they were receiving from the DPW and their website.
Apparently the problem began when several residents called the township DPW to find out exactly when branch debris would be picked up in their area, only to be told that this service was over for the season.
“How can they just stop picking up branches after a storm like we just had?” said one woman, adding that she had so many branches piled at the curb that she didn’t know how to dispose of them.
“I guess I’ll just have to call someone and pay to have them taken away,” she added.
Another resident received the same information when he called the DPW, and was alarmed the township cut off branch pickup too soon considering that superstorm Sandy winds had resulted in so many trees either coming down or losing branches.
Mayor Joseph Florio was concerned about the mix up.
“That’s disturbing. We certainly don’t want to send any mixed messages to our residents,” the mayor said, explaining he had been riding throughout the township to see how the branch pickup was going.
“That is township policy under normal circumstances, but this storm was not normal. It left so many trees down and branches everywhere,” he added, but noted that leaves still have to be bagged, regardless of the storm.
“It’s just that it is taking an exceptional amount of time to get the job done,” Florio said, adding that there were hundreds and hundreds of trees that fell down in the township, in addition to the enormous amount of branches.
“We have already spent $100,000 in overtime to pick up all the fallen debris,” he said, mentioning that while the township could hire outside contractors to come in and lend a hand, the cost is prohibitive.
Florio explained that under normal circumstances branches would have to be tied in order to be picked up, but superstorm Sandy put what is normally done on the back burner. As for misinformation on the township website, Florio said it would be updated.
“I’m going to check on our website to ensure we are putting out the right message there,” the mayor said, pointing out that with such a serious storm the website might have been missed when it came to updating information on this issue.
The mayor said it could be weeks before the DPW completes the job, and Manzella agreed.
“I would say it will be well after Christmas,” he said, asking for residents patience until every street is completed.
Manzella explained that the township actually came to the aid of 15 homeowners who had trees fall on their homes.
“These were not township trees and we were under no obligation to help, but we brought in cranes to ensure the job got done,” the administrator said.
“We had four huge trees down on Pine street. One crushed a truck,” the administrator said, mentioning that it took four days for the DPW to clear the rubble away.
He said hundreds of trees were felled by the storm throughout the township, more than he has ever seen before.
Manzella said the DPW is going street by street, working seven days a week to get the job completed.
“We are committed to getting the job done,” he added.