Shared services concept moves forward
By Fran Odyniec
There was trash talk going on when local mayors and representatives from West Jefferson, Plain City, Mt. Sterling, and South Solon met with the Madison County commissioners this past Monday afternoon at Rothwell’s Neighborhood Restaurant in London.
As part of a local version of a monthly economic summit, these government officials are exploring the potential for shared services as a means of controlling costs and saving taxpayer dollars.
Trash talk, specifically residential solid waste disposal and hauling, has emerged as the lead issue as a potential shared service. Joining the local officials were representatives from the North Central Ohio Solid Waste District (NCOSWD): Jack DeWitt, operations manager and Joe Martin, program coordinator. Martin and Dennis Baker, NCOSWD executive director had met with the commissioners on July 9 to discuss the possibilities and requirements for a consolidated trash pick up in the county.
“No doubt about it,” Baker said at that meeting. “Municipal contracts make so much sense. You can get better prices and more service for less money.”
Currently, monthly trash collection charges in Madison County range from $17.90 in Plain City to $17.33 in Mt. Sterling to $16.14 in West Jefferson to $26 in South Solon. The City of London handles its own trash collection and charges residents $7.80 per month plus $1 per city provided bag as a “pay as you throw” program.
NCOSWD’s DeWitt told the mayors, “This is not a big metropolitan community, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a better price.”
“Here it’s competitive with the big players,” said Martin, referring to the likes of Waste Management, Rumpke, and Allied which have contracts with various communities in Madison County.
He added that from the district’s conversations with these haulers, “Early indications are that the waste haulers are favorable (to a bid process.)”
DeWitt also pointed out that one aspect that appeals to the major haulers is that Madison County is a bigger geographical area which would help them grow market share. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are approximately 4,000 houses in Madison County that are potential customers for a waste hauler.
However, waste hauling contracts with municipalities in Madison County have varying dates of expiration. For example, West Jefferson has entered the first of two extended years to its contract, and Plain City is in the second year of its two-year extension.
“Coordinating these contract expirations will be key to getting this off the ground,” DeWitt said.
DeWitt and Martin advised that while some municipalities could get into the program sooner than later, it would be possible for the other communities to piggyback onto the program.
The mayors agreed to take this aspect of shared services to the next step which is securing a letter of interest from each municipality. NCOSWD’s legal counsel, Eastman and Smith in Toledo, would draft the letter which the mayors would then take to their respective councils.
Regarding contract expiration dates, DeWitt suggest that the letter would indicate that those municipalities currently under contract with haulers “would come on board once those contracts expire.”
Plain City Mayor Sandra Adkins voiced approval of the letter on the condition “as long as it doesn’t tie us down.”
Commissioner David Dhume, commenting on the need for councils to review the language of the letter, made the point that “this is a letter of interest, not commitment. Commitment won’t come until the contract.”
Dhume added that the letter of interest is a starting point for NCOSWD to get its “paperwork started.”
Once a point of agreement and participation among the municipalities is reached, a bid process would be initiated that would be open to any hauler that could offer services as stipulated in the bid.
The bid would also include the cost of containers for trash and recycling.
However, to arrive at that point will require approval from city and village councils.
DeWitt and Martin provided the mayors with a worksheet to review with their councils in helping to identify the particular needs of their communities.
Mayor Charlie Neff, of Mt. Sterling, expressed interest in including farmers in the contract.
“Let’s look at what’s most attractive to haulers,” said Dhume. “Perhaps we can include farmers in a second phase.”
Mayor Darlene Steele, of West Jefferson, in the spirit of shared services, commented, “It might be a good idea to buy salt collectively.”
But, as she added for the moment, “We’re talking trash.”