Toledo City Council on Tuesday continued debating whether to let the city get into the composting business through the purchase of a German-made machine to turn leaves collected from city streets into compost.
The Bell administration is asking permission to spend $347,000 on a compost turner and later plans to ask to spend $22,500 to rent a machine that screens compost.
The city had a contract with Clean Wood Recycling Inc. of Toledo, which it canceled in favor of starting its own composting operation.
The company has sued the city in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for breach of contract. Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said the agreement included a 30-day exit clause and declined further comment on the lawsuit.
The topsoil produced would be used for city projects and not sold to the public, Mr. Herwat said.
“We spent $200,000 a year on dirt when we demolished 300 houses a year, and this year, we are doing 600 houses,” he said. “We would not sell it on the open market but we can use it as cover on the landfill, and we have plenty of uses for top soil.”
Director of Public Service Ed Moore said the plan would save the city $1 million over the next three years.
The city collects 284,000 cubic yards of leaves every fall.
With them, it can avoid spending $200,000 annually for topsoil to use after a house demolition or water department work, Mr. Moore said.
The city would also avoid paying $250,000 a year for a company to take the leaves from the city, he said
“We can save $1 million in three years,” Mr. Moore said. “ The machine is going to pay for itself in 1½ years.”
Councilman D. Michael Collins said the city would regret getting into the composting business.
“Several years ago, we approved spending $12 million for garbage trucks and then we sold them for $8 million and we gave away the containers,” Mr. Collins said referring to the city decision to have a private company take over refuse collection.
“We have demonstrated consistently in the past that we do not have the ability to go into business and run them proficiently,” Mr. Collins said.
He also disagreed with Mr. Moore's claim that the city can produce a topsoil product in three months.
Councilman Joe McNamara said he supports the idea.
“This is about turning leaves into topsoil,” he said. “We save money from not having to pay a business to haul leaves and buy topsoil. Given the very quick turnaround on the return on investment, this makes sense.”
Council could vote on the request next week during its regular meeting.
In other business, council reviewed a request to spend $50,000 to expand to citywide a text alert program used now in West Toledo's Old Orchard neighborhood.
District 5 Councilman Tom Waniewski started the pilot program last year. It provides text messages of crimes reported within the Old Orchard neighborhood.
Council next week also could vote to authorize the lease-purchase of 117 marked and unmarked police vehicles.
Earlier this year, council authorized the city to buy 106 new vehicles for police operations. “Subsequent negotiations with the supplier showed that the city could get an additional 11 much-needed vehicles for the same price,” city records said.
The lease agreement with PNC Equipment Finance LLC will be for three years and the city can then buy the vehicles for $1 at the end of the lease. The annual leases will cost up to $680,000 in the first year and up to $1.4 million in each of the second and third years.
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