Non-residents and landscapers, however, will probably be asked to pay to use the site next year, however, and if the Portage County Solid Waste District doesn't do more to help Kent with the costs of the facility, townships that use the site for their leaf collection will probably have to pay more next year as well.
Environmental Services Manager Mary Gilbert presented council Wednesday with a series of options to offset a projected deficit of $98,125, a shortfall similar to the one projected last year.
The options ranged from limiting the use of the compost facility to paying for some services from another fund.
Gilbert said the solid waste fund was originally set up to pay for recycling only but as the city added more programs to meet the state-mandated solid waste reduction goal, costs increased. After recycling collection, equipment rental and security for the compost site make up the largest expense funded from the solid waste fund.
The state recently updated its law to mandate a 50-percent reduction in solid waste going to landfill, twice the current mandate. The Portage County Solid Waste Management District is in the process of drafting a new plan to meet the goal.
If the county does not meet that goal, the state could come in and implement its own plan, something that has already happened in Toledo, said William Schultz, the city's representative to the solid waste district.
The committee agreed to:
Pay for litter collection and part of personnel from another fund, reducing the solid waste budget by $45,000 annually.
Authorize the administration to draft a policy that would sell compost to landscapers and non-residents, but let residents pick up compost or have it delivered to their homes at no charge.
Authorize Gilbert to tell the Solid Waste Management District that unless the district is willing to subsidize the compost site at a reasonable level, the other townships who use the site for leaf pickup will have to pay for the privilege.
One of Gilbert's proposals hinged on whether the district purchases a leaf turning machine and a tub grinder.
A preliminary proposal would have had Kent paying $35,000 a year for use of the machines, saving $84,000 in the fees it pays to rent the equipment by the hour and resulting in a $49,000 net savings. But in more recent discussions, Gilbert said, Kent's fee had been raised to $50,000.
She said the current solid waste plan called for a central composting site, but one had not yet been established. The city had proposed making Kent's site the alternative to a county facility, since Franklin and Ravenna townships and Brady Lake all take their leaves to the Kent compost site.
Another proposal would have closed the compost site to the public, allowing residents to obtain mulch only if it is delivered to them. Council members, however, said the site should be open to the public, noting many residents enjoy the service.
In related business, the committee voted 7-1 to keep picking up recyclables on a weekly basis instead of every other week.
Gilbert said the weekly pickup had increased the volume of recyclables picked up by 30 percent, and in a recent survey, 70 percent of those who responded said the city should keep weekly pickup.
But Councilman Ed Pease, who argued unsuccessfully to drop weekly pickup, said that the program creates "a tremendous mess on our streets."
"I know of no one who is recycling more because recyclables are picked
up more often," he said.