The city commission didn't solve any of Sandusky's recycling issues Monday night.
They voted to form a committee to further explore the issue and come back with an answer before the end of the year.
But the commission also unanimously voted to support a 19-hauler recycling and trash system, vowing not to put anybody out of business.
"We've made a big step tonight," said ex-officio mayor Craig Stahl, who suggested the motion.
The commission's move shunned the wishes of city manager Matt Kline and county officials, who have pushed a one- or five-hauler system for months.
Under either of those systems, the city would contract with one hauler -- or five haulers, one for each zone in the city, if officials preferred -- to pick up all the recycling, trash and yard waste.
According to Lisa Beursken, director of Erie County Solid Waste District, county residents currently pay $66 for trash-hauling services.
But if the city used a one-hauler system, residents would only pay $45 and get trash, curbside recycling and yard-waste pickup all in one.
But the commissioners said they weren't willing to switch to a one- or five-hauler system, even if it would save residents money, because it could possibly put people out of jobs.
"I don't think anyone wants to do away with our 19 local haulers," Stahl said.
The commissioners also unanimously voted to pursue only voluntary recycling. Under the one- or five-hauler system, recycling wouldn't be mandatory either, but residents would still have to pay for the contracted service, even if they chose not to recycle.
Commissioner Bob Warner said most of the haulers are already offering opt-in recycling options, so the city doesn't really have a recycling problem.
"If you want voluntary recycling, that's what they're offering," Warner said of the local haulers. "That problem is more or less fixed."
But Beursken and Jack Meyers, the Erie County sanitary engineer, expressed worry whether the city's plan would comply with mandates by the Ohio EPA. Beursken said the county must offer recycling to 90 percent of its residents by 2015.
If the city chooses to do an opt-in program with 19 haulers, like the commission wants, the EPA would likely only count that as offering recycling to 25 percent of the city's population.
Meyers said he would speak to the EPA shortly and ask them about the city's plan.
Beursken also said the city commission was misinforming the public, because the city only has 17 haulers, not 19, and only seven of them do residential pickup.
She and Meyers said if the smaller haulers worked together, the city could go to a five-hauler system and possibly not put anyone out of business.
Meyers said "we'll have to live" with the city's decision for now, but "I'm already politicking for the next five years," when the county must write its next plan in 2015.
Many of the city commissioners also said the onus was on the county to help out. After all, they said, the county, which owes more than $30 million in debt on its landfill, is pulling some of its recycling bins to save money, including the ones in Sandusky, putting the city in this conundrum.
"If the county wants to mandate that everybody has curbside recycling, that's the county's deal," Warner said.
County commissioner Bill Monaghan said the county would gladly loan Sandusky some recycling bins, but it has to think about its finances.
"We're between a rock and a hard place," he said, referring to the $30 million in debt.
But Monaghan said outside of loaning the bins, city and village officials must decide how they'll handle recycling in their areas.
"We're not going to come in and tell the city how to run its business," Monaghan said.
In addition to county officials, Perkins officials came to the meeting to see how Sandusky would handle the recycling issue. In Erie County, only Huron currently offers it residents curbside recycling, and it uses a one-hauler system.
Waddington noted recycling bins don't get pulled until the end of the year, so the new committee, which will be comprised of two residents appointed by Stahl, city commissioners Warner and Pervis Brown, two city staffers and a county commissioner, still have time to form a solution.
"I don't think we're at the fourth quarter yet," Waddington said. "There's just too many moving parts (to make a decision) right now. Too many questions."