After about a year of writing, discussion and rewriting, the policy committee of the Portage County Solid Waste Management District has approved a draft of its recycling plan update. Committee members voted Thursday to send the plan out for ratification by local governments. The district has 30 days to deliver the plan to county commissioners and local governments.
The district is asking local officials to vote within 30 days so the district can meet the April 5 deadline for the director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to sign the new plan.
District Commissioner Kathleen Chandler said her goal was to make sure the district can provide "the most cost effective, efficient service that will be available to us."
She said she believes the new plan does that and provides the flexibility to contract with private haulers requested by Aurora, Streetsboro and Hiram Township.
Hiram Trustee Jack Groselle said he thinks the plan doesn't go far enough. The new plan calls for the district to "investigate" privatization.
"I don't want the board to investigate privatization, I want you to do it," Groselle said.
"Then do it," board member Tom Smith replied. "The plan allows you to do it."
The new plan must be approved by both county commissioners and the city of Kent, which have veto power. The plan also must be approved by cities, villages and townships totaling at least 75 percent of the county population. If the update plan doesn't get approval at that level.
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Then it continues under the current plan until an update is drafted and signed by the OEPA director. Groselle predicted the plan would be rejected.
For several months, representatives from the northwestern communities have been pushing for changes to the plan to allow them to contract with private haulers, to allow haulers to take recyclables directly to other facilities without dropping recyclables first at the county's facility in Brimfield, and to allow haulers to mix loads from Portage and other counties when routes cross county lines.
Hiram Trustee Kathleen Schulda said she believes about 25 percent of the county's townships and municipalities will drop out of the plan.
Schulda questioned the district's plan to seek a $ 1 million federal grant for six new trucks to pick up recyclables. The district would pay a $400,000 local match if it gets the grant.
Schulda said the new trucks would be a prohibitive expense if the northern communities dropped out. Committee member Pat McConn said the district doesn't have to buy all the trucks at once, and can adjust the buys to meet the need.
Chandler said the district board has an obligation to provide safe working conditions for employees. She said the new trucks would lower the risk of injury and workers compensation claims by employees and improve route efficiency.
Last week, representatives from Aurora, Streetsboro, Ravenna, the villages of Hiram and Mantua and Hiram township presented a letter to district commissioners putting the county on notice that the communities might terminate their contracts for recycling collection through the county district.
Commissioner Tommie Jo Marsilio had voted against the grant application.
Marsilio said last week she also wanted it understood that "this group stands in opposition to spending public money in competition with the private sector."