To the Editor:
Hopewell Township’s Public Works Department is responsible for clearing brush throughout 58 square miles of our primarily rural Township. Two pickups are scheduled each year, in May and October.
In most years, this schedule works well and our Public Works crews are able to do their jobs quickly and efficiently. But this has not been a normal year. We have seen an unprecedented series of nor’easters, snowstorms, and flooding rains in the first five months of 2018. This has led to an enormous amount of brush.
In Spring 2017, Public Works collected 2,000 cubic yards of brush, and an additional 3,000 cubic yards in the fall. As of last week, Public Works collected 5,100 cubic yards of brush and estimates the total amount may be as high as 12,000 cubic yards. That is more than twice the amount collected in all of 2017.
While the workload has increased by a factor of six, the number of Public Works employees remains the same. And while picking up brush is a priority, Public Works must address other Township priorities as well, including pothole repair, removal of dangerous trees, clearing drainage inlets clogged after storms so we are ready for the next storm, and making emergency repairs to Township roads and bridges damaged by events such as last week’s floods.
I know the Public Works crew, led by George Snyder and Dave Guerard, has risen to the challenge. The crews have been working overtime on storm-related issues. Our Public Works Director and General Foreman have been on Township roads helping to pick up brush. The Township will be renting additional equipment on a short-term basis. In addition to the brush storage location behind the Township Building — which is rapidly filling up—we are planning to temporarily store brush at Pennytown. This will not only solve the short-term storage issue, but will also mean that crews working at the northern end of the Township will not have to drive all the way to the Township Building to empty trucks, saving more than 30 minutes on every trip and providing more time to collect brush. All brush at the Township Building and at Pennytown will be chipped and taken away. As collections continue, brush that is causing a safety hazard for drivers or is blocking storm sewers will continue to receive priority removal.
Despite these steps, it will take time to complete the job.
Our Public Works crew is dedicated to helping all of us in Hopewell Township. When it rains, they are the ones standing in ditches to keep our roads from flooding. When it snows, they are the ones out before dawn plowing so we can continue with our daily activities. When it is windy, they are the ones removing trees from our streets. Day after day, the crew does an outstanding job, and I thank them for everything that they do and appreciate the pride they take in doing their best work.
I understand there is frustration that all brush has not been collected. But please be assured the job will be done. And after all brush has been collected, I am going to sit down with our Public Works team to review lessons learned and to develop a plan to handle high brush collection in the years to come.
Member, Hopewell Township Committee and Liaison to the Public Works Department
(Note: This letter reflects the views of the author and is not meant to represent the views of all members of the Township Committee.)