To date, 54 properties in Summit Hill have been exonerated from trash collection fees.

The borough council was warned last night that in the long run, this could prove to become very expensive for its residents.

Larry Wittig, president of Tamaqua Transfer, said the borough has a four-year contract for trash collecting, and for the duration of that agreement, the rates won't rise. However, after that contract expires, the rates will rise substantially whether his firm gets a new contract or a competitor wins the bid because of the borough's practice of allowing such exonerations.

He admitted error on his part for not fully analyzing the wording in the trash collection agreement with the borough, but appealed for the council to work with him on resolving the matter.

The council took no action. They did, however, grant another exemption for the trash collection fee to a resident on West Walter Street who has an apartment which has been vacant since March.

An ordinance approved by the borough, which went into effect this year, states that any parcel vacant for six months can be exonerated from trash collection fees until it becomes occupied.

The contract with Tamaqua Transfer states that the borough will reduce the amount paid to the firm because of these exonerations.

Wittig told the council that when he submitted a bid for pickup, it was based on the borough's history of garbage tonnage generated in the borough. He said the newest contract is lower than the previous contract the borough had for trash pickup because of the formula.

He said despite the exonerations that the borough approves, the tonnage doesn't change. He also has to pay his truck expenses and his crew's wages for trash pickup regardless of how many homes are collected in the borough.

Already on day one of the contract, there were 37 residents exempted, which meant a $1,600 reduction in the rate the borough pays his firm, he explained.

"The next contract, I can assure you, will be much higher," he warned.

He added, "A business relationship goes two ways," appealing for the borough to cooperate with him.

He told the council he has been working with the borough as much as possible. As an example, he said there was a period when the borough took more than two months to pay its bill to Tamaqua Transfer. He said despite this, his firm continued collections in the borough.

"We weren't paid for 80 days and we still picked it up," he said.

Wittig said he was asked by a council member to donate a dumpster for an event in the borough and he refused because "I feel like I'm being kicked to the curb and asked to do more."

"In four years, I can assure you that regardless of the economic environment, your contract will significantly increase," he warned.

He added, "I don't understand your exemption process."

Later in the meeting, after the council awarded an exemption to the Walter Street resident, councilman Mike Kokinda remarked, "This is something we will seriously have to discuss."

Council President Joe Weber responded, "Right now we have a contract. We will explore all options when the next contract comes up."