Save jobs or save money for residents?
That's the question facing city officials as they struggle to implement a curbside recycling program.
According to Lisa Beursken, coordinator of Erie County Solid Waste District, residents could save $1.2 million per year if the city institutes one-hauler, curbside recycling.
But the city has 19 haulers, maybe more, and bidding out the program to one hauler could result in others going out of business.
The question of whether to support local businesses or save residents money has stymied city officials.
"It's a tough piece," said city commissioner Dave Waddington. "I don't know what the answer is, but one way or another, we've got to have recycling."
Huron, the only municipality in Erie County that offers curbside recycling, uses the one-hauler system.
Huron residents pay $35 per quarter for both waste and recycling services, Beursken said, while other Erie County residents pay about $66 per quarter.
"So there's a clear savings there," Beursken said. "That's $124 in savings per household."
But last week fellow commissioner Pervis Brown Jr. made it clear he won't approve recycling legislation if it negatively affects local businessmen.
"I won't support any legislation that puts any haulers out of business," Brown said.
Many of the commissioners said they struggle with making a decision that could doom local businesses. But city manager Matt Kline supports the one-hauler system.
"Are you going to receive better, citywide economic benefits by putting that $1.2 million back into the residents' hands?" he asked. "Shoot, that's a lot of money."
Kline will send out bid specs in the near future to find out exactly how much residents could save with a one-hauler system. Beursken's numbers are just an estimate, based on the cost Huron residents pay.
But Kline will also send out different bid specs that divide the city into five zones.
While that probably won't save residents as much money as the one-hauler system, city commissioner Bob Warner said it's a compromise to keep more haulers afloat.
And Warner said even if they don't do waste and recycling pickup, the other haulers could find niche areas like hauling furniture and other large objects.
"We got to compromise," he said.
Warner said the city will host public forums at some point to gather feedback.
Beursken noted whichever company wins the city's bidding process, they will likely have to hire more employees, and the city could mandate they hire local employees and possibly some of the other haulers.
But time is running out to make a decision. Because of financial problems, the county is threatening to pull its recycling bins next year. The city could keep its recycling bins, Beursken said, but would have to pay at least $30,000.
Waddington said the city must consider other questions, like how to handle rental properties: Would each rental property get just one bin? Or would, for instance, a family who lives on the bottom floor of a house get one bin, while a different family who lives on the top floor get a different bin?
The city must answer all these questions.
"But you have to recycle," said Waddington, a proponent of green initiatives. "This is the 21st century, I mean, come on. We have to figure this out soon."