At a meeting of Lucas County township officials and area residents in Springfield Township Hall, Commissioner Pete Gerken called on people to "vote with their wallets" in deciding whether to join with Toledo and other communities in collectively purchasing trash collection and recycling services.
"You decide. We do not have the authority to force you to do this. Nor do we want to," Mr. Gerken said. "We've got an opportunity that I haven't seen here in 20 years, with the city of Toledo willing to change the way they do business. That opens opportunities for our suburban communities, villages, and townships."
Mayor Bell has been pushing for the privatization of Toledo's refuse operations in an effort to reduce trash collection costs for the city. The plan, which must still be approved by City Council, would save the city an estimated $7 million a year, Bell administration officials say.
A request for bids on the cost of hauling trash for the city has been made by Lucas County commissioners, who also head up the board of the Lucas County Solid Waste Management District. With that request, county officials are also asking companies to bid on trash and recycling services for other Lucas County communities. These include Waterville Township, Richfield Township, Maumee, Whitehouse, Berkey, Harding Township, Jerusalem Township, Providence Township, Spencer Township, Springfield Township, Swanton Township, Sylvania Township, and Washington Township.
Companies are being asked to bid on the cost of providing weekly refuse collection, biweekly recycling collection, and quarterly bulk pickup. They must also provide a proposed cost for optional weekly recycling and weekly yard waste disposal, as well as details on recycling incentives.
Bids are due March 24.
Jim Shaw, the county sanitary engineer, said once the bids come in communities can decide whether they want to participate in a trash pickup plan.
He said that could happen even if Toledo decides not to go ahead with privatizing its trash collection, although he speculated the cost of collection could be significantly lower if the city is involved because of its size.
Mayor Bell emphasized Thursday night that any collective arrangement would be designed as mutually beneficial, and threw aside fears expressed by some residents and township officials that Toledo might lean on the suburbs to help pay its trash collection bill. Toledo, he said, can take care of itself.
"The case is that there seems to always be a potential to make a savings of money that benefits everybody …by working together," the mayor said. "We're going to be fine anyway. This is just an opportunity to share. We're not coming here because we need a handout from anybody in the county."
Mr. Bell must still gain the approval of City Council to move forward with his privatization plan.
Council missed Tuesday's deadline to either approve or reject the plan.
Toledo currently pays for trash collection service through a monthly $8.50 refuse fee which is then supplemented with income taxes.
The city's director of public service, Dave Welch, has said the trash fee would have to be raised to $17.25 a month if the service were to pay for itself.
It is not yet clear what a private hauler would charge, and council members have said that could be a deciding factor in whether they approve the plan to privatize.
Most of Lucas County's townships already pay for private trash collection services. In some cases, the collection is organized by the township itself, with money coming from either the general fund or a levy.
In other communities, residents themselves contract with private haulers. As a result, the price people pay for trash collection varies widely across the county.
Some officials at the meeting Thursday night said they would be open to considering a wider trash collection system.
Richfield Township Trustee Don Eisel said he wasn't going to dismiss the idea until he sees the proposal results. His township spends around $30,000 a year out of its general fund to pay for refuse services, he said.
"If it's less than what we're paying now, we might be [interested]," he said. "You can't just be negative about it."
Some residents at the meeting were less convinced.
Roger Hineline, 69, of Swanton Township said he is happy with the trash collection he gets already, which is organized and paid for through township funds. He expressed suspicion over the idea of joining forces with Toledo.
"I came out to see why the city of Toledo wants to dump stuff on the county," he said. "I think we should just opt out."
Della Glenn, 68, of Springfield Township agreed that she would rather maintain the status quo. She said she pays a private hauler $27 per quarter and she's happy with the service.
"That's pretty reasonable," she said. "I don't want to see a small businessman put out of business."
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6272.