September 20, 2020

I Think Bears In New Jersey May Be Smarter Than Government Leaders

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New Jersery’s commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, called off the 2006 bear hunt. One of the reasons Lisa Jackson gave in cancelling the hunt was because she didn’t think the newly approved Bear Management Plan included enough non-lethal ways of dealing with bear problems and complaints from residents. Of course a simple bear hunt would have reduced numbers, reduced complaints, provided for a healthier bear population and wouldn’t have cost the state anything as the cost would be absorbed through hunter license and permit fees. But that’s not the New Jersey way!

At least one town in New Jersey has been trying to do something about nuisance bears for so long, I’m not sure they can remember when the process started. West Milford was supposed to purchase bear-proof garbage cans with money from a grant issued by the DEP. It’s been an embarrassment to the town and to the DEP because they can’t get it done.

This was all part of a plan to see if bear-proof garbage cans would reduce the number of complaints from residents. The plan was to purchase 3,075 cans and distribute them to 1,525 homes in selected areas most affected by bears. When the proposal was announced, the garbage haulers wanted to renegotiate their contract with the town because of increased labor costs of having to unscrew the lids of all the garbage cans before emptying them. (Of course it wouldn’t be all of them because we know that many people won’t bother to take the time to screw the lids on anyway. Heck, they won’t buckle a seat belt, why would they take the time to screw on a lid to a stinking old garbage can?)

Then the town council couldn’t make up its mind whether to buy a cheaper version of the screw-of lids or a more expensive kind of spring-loaded lid. Finally, the bids went out but within a couple of months they had to rebid the process all over again because they failed to provide detailed information necessary for contractors to make accurate bids.

Believe it or not, it does get worse. The company that won the bid, Compliant Solutions, secured a contract to manufacture 3,075 screw-off lid garbage cans for a price of $176,000. Yes, folks that’s $57.24 a can……and oh, by the way, you expected handles to come for that price?

Compliant Solutions said they would be happy to drill the holes and put handles on the cans but that would be another negotiated price.

“That’s four holes per handle, and four handles per can,” Township Manager Richard Kunze said Thursday. “That’s a lot of holes.”

Representatives of the winning bidder, Compliant Solutions of Elmwood Park, were at the council meeting to demonstrate the rubberized critter cans with the screw-off lids. The company offered to drill the holes, but said it would have to pass the labor costs on to the township.

But the town couldn’t just pay Compliant to put the handles on because it might create some real legal messes when complaints from the losing bidders began pouring in.

Now the town still doesn’t have bear-proof cans. I wonder if the New Jersey Supreme Court would have ruled differently about the bear hunt if they had known that the same DEP that stopped the bear hunt was the same DEP that couldn’t get a town to “find more non-lethal ways” of dealing with bears.

Just think how simple and cost effective one simple little 5-day bear hunt could have been. No problem!

Tom Remington

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