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Published: Monday, 7/4/2011

Pension panel reverses ruling

County will not be required to contribute for refuse crews


The Ohio Public Employee Retirement System has reversed its ruling requiring Lucas County to contribute to the pensions of Toledo refuse workers who are laid off and then go to work for Allied Waste Management, the private company taking over trash collection in the city.

In May, the Lucas County Board of Board of Commissioners approved the private takeover of Toledo's trash collection. Under the plan, the city handed over authority for trash collection to the county, which in turn hired private waste hauler Allied Waste Management. Management The agreement eliminated 66 union positions, although officials say few of those employees are likely to not have jobs.

Under retirement-system rules, public employees whose jobs are lost through private contracting and who continue to do the same work are eligible to continue contributing to the system's pension. If they do, their former public employer would have to contribute its share as well. The city asked the retirement system for a ruling.

It said June 7 that "the city employees will be transferred to Lucas County. The county will then transfer the employees to Allied Waste. We have determined that any employees transferred to Allied Waste will be a public employee defined" under the Ohio Revised Code.

The latest ruling, dated June 28, alleviates the county of that responsibility. "There is no agreement between the city of Toledo and a private entity to continue to provide the same or similar services," the retirement system said. "As a result, the affected city of Toledo employees are not considered to be carryover public employees. … The city of Toledo is simply eliminating the function of refuse collection; this function would then be performed by Lucas County Solid Waste Management District."

County Commissioner Pete Gerken said he was shocked about the initial ruling. Under the agreement approved by the county, most city of Toledo households will pay $8.95 a month for trash and recycle service. Seniors who qualify for a homestead exemption will continue to pay $5 a month. Residents still will be billed through the city utilities department.

Steve Herwat, Toledo deputy mayor of operations, said he was sure the first ruling would be overturned. "Seeing as how the city never had a contract with Allied, I think the [new] ruling was entirely appropriate according to the law and according to the facts," he said.

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and Mr. Gerken are expected to make a joint announcement Tuesday on progress toward trash-collection privatization.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.

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