Streetsboro -- City Council's unanimous March 11 vote against ratifying a proposed plan update for the Portage County Solid Waste Management District means a new plan will be written by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The proposed plan would have guided the recycling district for the next five years.
The plan needed to be endorsed by local governments representing 75 percent of the county's population.
The vote tally for cities showed Kent voting for the plan, with Streetsboro, Ravenna and Aurora opposed. Of the six villages, Brady Lake, Windham and Sugar Bush Knolls endorsed the plan, while Mantua and Garrettsville opposed. The village of Hiram took no action. Of the 18 townships, all but Hiram endorsed the plan, while Nelson took no action.
Streetsboro Mayor Glenn Broska said while the Portage County plan indicated the city could explore privatization, the final decision rests with the solid waste board.
"If they deemed [Streetsboro leaving] would be detrimental to the program, they wouldn't allow it," Broska said. "I have a problem with that. Streetsboro puts about $155,000 a year into that program, so of course it's going to be detrimental [if Streetsboro leaves]. I didn't like them making a decision for our city. There are private haulers who could do the recycling for our community for significantly less."
Broska said the city government pays about $7,100 quarterly to Portage County for recycling.
"[If we had a private hauler], we could save the city money and could pass that onto our citizens," Broska said.
Broska said the additional money the city pays to Portage County is like "an unvoted tax."
"We have to pass that on to our residents in the form of recycling fees," Broska said. "I enjoy recycling, but I want to be able to get it at the best price."
Council Vice President Regis Faivre agreed money is the biggest issue.
"The county wasn't offering anything to save the residents money," Faivre said. "It wasn't a good deal for the residents. I'm not about to have the residents pay more. [Voting against it] was a no-brainer."
Broska said he was also upset with the decision-making process within Portage County "because we were allowed so little input."
Broska said he believes privatization will ultimately be inserted into the waste disposal plan by the EPA. He'd like to see the city bid for private haulers.
Aurora Service Director John Trew recommended Aurora City Council not endorse the plan, saying he did not believe it was in the best interest of local citizens.
"The concerns were the lack of transparency during the entire process," said Trew. "The solid waste district committee failed to have a technical advisory committee review their work. The county has been subsidized by the city [of Aurora] for years, and we're asking that all residents pay their fair share."
Aurora City Council voted unanimously to reject the plan March 25.
Trew said the agency's waste generation fee is the second highest in the state for a service which is "great" but that the private sector is "more talented at delivering."
"We believe the plan should have allowed contracting out by the cities, not some legal words and maneuvering to circumvent the issue," Trew said. "There were committee members that were disingenuous during the proceedings, and competing interests were at odds."
Solid Waste Management District Director Bill Steiner said the vote means Portage County will miss the April 6 deadline to present an endorsed plan to the Ohio EPA. The current plan will remain in force until a new one is written by the Ohio EPA and signed by its director.
Steiner said he is not sure what the effect will be on the district's plans to move to single-stream collections, in which residents would no longer have to sort their recyclable materials into different bins.
The district is trying to avoid spending millions on repairs and upgrades to its Mogadore Road facility in Brimfield by moving to single-stream collection.
Steiner said he's also unsure what the effect will be on the district's efforts to contract a company to directly purchase those materials and shut down its Brimfield sorting facility.
"We will need to have a meeting with OEPA to find out what we can and cannot do, because we have to live with the current plan," Steiner said.
Editor's Note: Aurora Advocate Editor Ken Lahmers and Record-Courier Reporter Mike Sever contributed to this story.
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