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Sandy Cleanup Has DPW 'Working Their Butts Off'

Watchung crews still collecting debris more than two months after storm.

More than two months after Superstorm Sandy ravaged New Jersey, the storm’s effects are still being felt in Watchung.

Municipal workers are working overtime to collect the debris left by the storm’s strong winds.

And the borough is receiving letters from residents about the confusion surrounding the payment of quarterly property taxes, Borough Administrator Thomas Atkins said at Thursday’s Borough Council meeting.

The borough’s public works department, which has been working overtime, has finished collecting storm debris on more than 60 streets, Councilman William Nehls said, but there is still more work to be done.

The next areas where debris is to be collected are east of Johnson Drive and west of Valley Road, Nehls said. A list of the streets where work has been completed can be found here.

Three contractors are helping the public works department, Nehls said, and another contractor may be hired. The contracts are helping with the larger debris.

"I hope we can get it done as fast as we possibly can,” Nehls said.

Mayor Gerald Mobus praised the efforts of the public works crews.

“The guys are working their butts off,” he said. “They don’t let any grass grow under their feet.”

One of the problems in the cleanup, Councilman Steve Black said, is the amount of debris in the heavily-wooded borough.

Some residents have told him their front curbs have gotten “maxed” with the amount of storm debrs. And once that is removed, more debris from their backyards is then placed at the front curb.

“There is still a lot of material that still has not been placed at curbside,” Black said.

Atkins, calling the cleanup “massive” and “complex,” said he has received a lot of positive comments from residents about the cleanup, which started in December.

The borough will still collect Christmas trees this month, Atkins said, “since we’re picking up a lot of things.”

“Compared to Sandy’s problems, the Christmas trees are nothing,” Atkins said.

Atkins also told the Council that the borough has received a number of letters from residents who are delinquent in their property taxes. Atkins said the complaints could be attributed to problems with postal service after the storm.

Quarterly taxes were due Nov. 1 but an extension to Nov. 20 was granted because of the storm. But many residents were not aware of  the Nov. 20 date.

The borough has already rejected one request for amnesty from late fees because of the date confusion, Atkins said, but a meeting will be held to review the other requests.

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