Despite facing repeated blowback from area haulers and their dedicated customers, Erie County officials continue to explore a system in which only one company would collect area trash and recycling.
Through Register reporting and answers provided by Lisa Beursken, Erie County’s solid waste district coordinator, here’s the dirt on the proposed trash and recycling program:
Q: What’s the latest news with trash and recycling operations?
A: Members of the Erie County solid waste district are trying to entice as many elected officials representing local communities — cities, townships and villages — as they can to ideally team up and search the marketplace as one large customer in hopes of receiving the best trash and recycling services for a reasonable rate.
The more governments participating in this plan, officials contend, the lower rate each resident can then achieve for trash and recycling services.
Residents today pay all different trash rates. The average Erie County resident pays $66 per quarter for just trash removal. Officials believe this plan could enable residents to pay $35 per quarter for trash, curbside recycling and more.
“By combining trash and providing recycling at the curb, we can lower current trash bills and increase services to Erie County residents,” Beursken said.
No community’s locked into the plan at this time, and no deal is imminent.
Q: What communities are in thus far?
A: The communities with verbal agreements to join in the consortium and figure out what prices are possible include:
• Cities: Sandusky.
• Townships: Florence, Groton, Huron, Oxford, Perkins and Vermilion.
• Villages: Bay View, Berlin Heights, Castalia and Milan.
Communities already implementing a one-hauler system, such as Huron, would be exempt from the county’s proposed one-hauler system. But these communities, such as Huron, still have an opportunity to opt into a county deal.
Q: What’s a rough timeline of this proposed deal?
A: Beursken provided the following tentative dates:
• Now through end of August: Representatives from these governments must fill out and submit a survey based on their particular community’s hauling needs. Lawyers in the Erie County prosecutor’s office will then review these documents.
• Early September: Plan goes out to bid.
• Early October: Bids, with prices and services offered, come back from ideally multiple hauling companies.
• Late October: A final decision must occur whether or not these communities collectively accept a one-hauler system.
• Late December: If the communities collectively pursue a countywide one-hauler system, then they must sign a contract for an unspecified amount of time.
• January: The plan’s then implemented.
Q: When could this program start?
A: At the earliest, January 2015, however, a lot — including approval from elected officials of many different communities — would first need to occur before a deal happens.
Q: Are there any other reasons why Erie County officials are pursuing this plan?
A: Beursken rattled off several other reasons, such as providing more waste services in rural areas and Erie County meeting an unfunded Ohio EPA mandate. In short, Erie County must give people more opportunities to recycle. The district's goal is to have at least half of Erie County's population participating in a curbside recycling program by 2015.
If approved, all public recycling centers — including ones maintained by Sandusky near Cedar Point and Lions Park — would likely cease to exist, since they're considered inefficient and too costly.
If countywide recycling doesn’t happen under these circumstances, then Erie County officials must brainstorm another way to satisfy this state requirement in providing more trash- and recycling-related services to residents at ideally a low cost.
Q: If the plan saves money, then why would people seem against it?
A: Simply put: Some area officials and many local residents across Erie County argue this plan would put many smaller haulers out of business.
“You are going to lose jobs,” city resident Herman Robinson said when Beursken first talked about the plan earlier this year. “The quality of service and competition will suffer. I can’t think of a single industry where there is a monopoly with good quality of service. There could be 50 to 100 jobs at stake, and we need to consider that.”
Said FSI Disposal president Duke Fultz: “I’m all for bidding out a particular city or village. But if you bid out the county, in my belief, you would shut out all the rest of the haulers from having another chance from coming back to bid. I don’t have a problem with competition, but when you open the door and bid out the entire county, you take out competition.”