BARLOW TWP. -The Barlow Township Trustees met Monday to go over a contract that potential waste disposal providers would be bidding on if the township moves forward with its plan to lock all its residents into a single, lower rate.
However, the pre-bid contract review was overshadowed by an hour-long public comments session. Around 40 Barlow residents showed up to voice their discontent with the proposed plan.
"I don't want you three people telling me where I can spend my money," said Barlow resident Kenny Meek.
Barlow Township residents expressed many concerns over a proposal to contract with a single trash disposal service that would save residents money but deny them the option to choose a different provider or opt out of service entirely.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Most of the people in attendance seemed to share Meek's viewpoint.
Currently, residents have the option to choose between six trash pick-up services.
"I have the names of 485 people of Barlow Township who would like to be responsible for their own trash pick-up," said resident Neil Kehl, who collected signatures for a petition opposing the plan.
At a glance
Currently Barlow Township residents have the option to choose between six trash pick up service providers.
Many residents in attendance at Monday's meeting said they paid $80 for three months worth of service.
Both nearby Waterford and Watertown townships have bid their trash service to a single provider.
Bidding a contract could cut the typical cost in half.
Under a contract with a single service provider, no more than 10 percent of Barlow Township residents could opt out of service for any reason.
Future public meetings are set to be scheduled before a final decision is made.
Trustee Darren Roddy countered that he had contacted some of the signers who informed him they had not fully comprehended the implications of the proposed plan.
"Some of them said 'Well if I'd known that, I wouldn't have signed it,'" he said.
Warren Local school district Superintendent Tom Gibbs was also in attendance and voiced mild concern that a contract signed by the township would void the school district's current contract for trash service. Gibbs said the school has reduced trash costs by nearly 50 percent in his eight years with the district.
"My only concern is that it would cost us more money," he said.
Indeed, several residents expressed concern that lower residential rates could be counterbalanced with higher rates for small business owners.
Others expressed concern that the contract prohibits customers from sharing the cost of waste disposal service with their neighbors.
"I know we have a lot of Barlow residents that double up," said Charlene Stephan.
Roddy pointed out that doubling up was technically illegal under most current waste disposal providers anyway.
The current price of trash service would likely be halved with a single provider used, he added.
"They could have their own and not have to take it across the road," said Roddy.
Many residents stated that they currently paid $80 for three months worth of trash service. Based on similar townships who have adopted a single provider, Roddy estimated the cost under contract would be less than $40 for the same time frame.
But many residents still protested the fact that smaller, independent providers did not qualify to bid for the contract because they did not have the necessary equipment.
"There are independents out here. You're going to run them out of business," protested Meek.
Many residents were also up in arms over an early June meeting, during which the proposal was discussed but no minutes were taken.
"Actually, you made part of this decision in an illegal meeting," said Elizabeth Silvus.
Silvus brought a copy of "The Sunshine Law" and told Barlow Fiscal Officer Jack Marks he could be fired for not taking minutes at the meeting.
Marks contended that neither he nor the trustees broke any laws because no formal decisions were made at that June meeting.
Some concerns were alleviated when it was made clear that the trustees had not yet committed to anything.
An additional public meeting for comment will be scheduled after the bids come in, said Roddy. Bids are due by Dec. 28, with the bid scheduled to be awarded Jan. 14, said trustee John Hannan, who opposes the plan. Hannan prefers giving residents freedom of choice, he said.
"I can't stand by and let those freedoms be taken away," he said.
The contract would affect 2,614 residents and 1,040 homes, said Hannan. Additionally, there was some confusion as to who, if anyone, could opt to simply deny service. The contract stipulated that trustees could grant waivers to residents who proved they had a different, legal way to dispose of trash.
After more than an hour, Roddy closed the meeting to public comments so trustees could meet with representatives from Rumpke, Kimble and Waste Management to discuss the contracts.
"We haven't even met with these people yet. That's what today was supposed to be for," he said of the representatives from companies who might bid for the job.
When the trustees and representatives did meet, it was decided that only 10 percent of homes could be granted any sort of exemption, said Hannan.
"That's not very much," he said.
Notice of the next public meeting will be given in The Marietta Times and at various local businesses, said Roddy.
If the trustees go through with the proposal, the new service would begin April 1, 2013.