The upcoming retirement of the village's three shade tree workers provides the council both an opportunity and a conundrum – rehire and potentially keep intact , or potentially spend more money with an outsourcing plan that also limits the duties of the workers.
As it turns out, after a lengthy discussion, the village will be splitting the difference – for now. The village will be looking to hire a senior tree climber and pursuing outsourcing options on a two-day-a-week basis, Village Manager Ken Gabbert said.
The plan will buy the village some time to potentially hire two or more workers with an improved shade tree policy hammered out by then.
"This buys us some time," Mayor Paul Aronsohn said.
Parks and Recreation Director Tim Cronin told the council Wednesday night he took estimated quotes from four private companies to explore outsourcing options of the shade tree division at the council's request.
Using current figures, Cronin said the three village employees amount to $330,000 annually, including benefits. Those workers also work on snow removal, emergency response, the tree planting program and more, he added. Outsourcing five days a week would cost $468,000 or more a year, Cronin reported and would not include all the current offerings.
Though the financial numbers may have favored keeping the status quo as opposed to larger plans for outsourcing, council members were skeptical of the overall idea of re-hiring village workers.
"You do have a certain flexibility when you go to a year-to-year contract," said Deputy Mayor Al Pucciarelli. "Does the model work? If we're going to repeat the same model where you hire another three people, are we not five years from now going to have a backlog?"
He suggested the amount of work needing completion could require more workers brought on and was apprehensive going in that direction.
"To me once we go down the road of hiring new people, we lose the opportunity to do things differently," Pucciarelli said.
A total of 159 trees in the village are still on the list to be removed, Cronin told the council, adding that he hopes to change the removal schedule next year to go by school district in two month periods.
Residents have following the October snowstorm that split numerous trees across Ridgewood.
Councilman Tom Riche said he's pushing for an option where workers can remove trees for citizens for a fee, which could bring in revenue and provide a better cost and service to residents.
The will be discussed in greater depth throughout the fall, officials said.