2010-05-22 / News

Trash bids will cut bills about in half

By Scot t Rawdon and Charles Prince

HEBRON – Competition for a contract to collect residential trash in Union Township is tough.

Four companies submitted bids to trustees Monday night, but it may take a while until the contract is awarded. Trustees recently established a residential trash district, which will contract with one collection company to service the unincorporated portion of the township. They’re trying to coordinate starting the new contract with the end of most residents’ current billing period so residents aren’t paying two companies at the same time.

Trustees forwarded all four bids to the Licking County Prosecutor’s Office for review after they were read publicly. J & J Refuse of Dover, Ohio, Republic Waste Services, Waste Management, and Big-O Refuse submitted bids. They submitted primary bids and alternative bids that are initially lower, but most include fuel surcharges that are triggered by significant increases in fuel prices. Customers 65 years of age and older would be billed as seniors.

• Big-O Refuse’s primary bid is $12.45 per month per household, $11.20 for seniors, $5.75 for recycling, $5.15 recycling for seniors, and $2.25 to rent a container. The alternate bid with a fuel surcharge is $11.95 per month per household, $10.75 for seniors, $5.75 for recycling, $5.15 recycling for seniors, and $2.25 to rent a container.

• Waste Management’s primary bid is $13.48 per month per household, $12.13 for seniors, $5 for recycling, and $3 to rent a container. The alternate bid is $12.88 per month per household, $11.59 for seniors, $4.58 for recycling, and $3 to rent a container.

• Republic Waste Service’s primary bid is $20.50 per month per household, $18.45 for seniors, recycling included, and $2 to rent a container. The alternate bid, which does not include a fuel surcharge but does include twoday collection service, is $19.25 per month per household, $17.32 for seniors, including recycling, and $2 to rent a container.

• J & J Refuse’s primary bid is $13.04 per month per household, $11.73 for seniors, $4.30 for recycling, $3.87 recycling for seniors, and $2 to rent a container. The alternate bid is $11.98 per month per household, $10.78 for seniors, $3.95 for recycling, $3.55 recycling for seniors, and $2 to rent a container. The alternate bid includes a fuel surcharge and two-day pick-up service.

Waste Management currently serves most residents at a cost of nearly $27 a month and it doesn’t include recycling. Residents will save about 50 percent on basic service. Trustee Rick Black suggested the prosecutor review all bids to ensure compliance with the township’s requirements.

“It’s more than just the numbers,” said Trustee President John Slater. He said trustees have 60 days to make a decision, but he expects to make a decision sooner than that. It’ll be on their June 7 meeting agenda.

In other township news:

• Trustees officially proposed paying 55 percent of the Hebron Fire Department’s operational costs and taking control of EMS billing for all runs in the contract area. The proposed contract term is three years.

The township has been paying 60 percent of the department’s budgeted operating expenses for some time. For four of the last five years, the township’s payments have actually represented less than 60 percent of the actual operating costs due to some expenses, primarily fuel, increasing faster than budgeted. In each of those years, Hebron paid all the higher costs.

Hebron began billing public and private insurance companies for EMS transports beginning July 1, 2007. If the insurance company doesn’t pay or the patient doesn’t have insurance, the charge is written off. Patients are NOT pursued for payment.

How that income is allocated between the village and township has become the key sticking point in recent contracts. Hebron wants to earmark all EMS billing revenue for capital improvements with both parties having to agree on any expenditures. Trustees want to use their allocation to offset their share of operating expenses.

An agreement reached last year gave the township 50 percent of all EMS billing revenue collected in 2007 and 2008; and 100 percent of the revenue generated in contracted area for 2009. That totalled about $130,000 which was paid to the township last year.

Trustees have continued to push for 60 percent of all EMS revenue on the premise that they pay 60 percent of all operating costs. They also want to use it for operating expenses. Hebron most strongly objects to using it for operating expenses rather than for capital improvements.

Trustees have recently learned that the township could set up a billing program for all transport runs made in the contract area. That would give the township 100 percent of EMS billing revenue generated in the township which is what Hebron agreed to for 2009 and is willing to continue. The difference, Trustee President John Slater said during a special Hebron Village Council meeting Monday night, is that the township would save the 6.5 percent administrative fee charged by Hebron to track revenue by location.

That meeting was called to brief council members on the status of negotiations including a private meeting on Thursday between Mayor Clifford Mason and Slater. Village Solicitor Wes Untied also took part as did an assistant county prosecutor assisting the township.

“We had some candid discussion,” Untied said. The township is willing to pay 60 percent in return for 60 percent of EMS billing revenue, he said, but will pay a lesser sum if they do their own billing.

“It is being driven by economic issues,” Untied added. “Trustees are reluctant to approach voters for additional revenue at this time.”

Union Township has two fire levies totalling 3.3 mills which are being collected at 3.177838 mills, while the Village of Hebron has two levies totalling 6 mills, being collected at 5.697614. That means Hebron property owners are paying a 79 percent higher tax rate for fire/EMS services than township property owners.

Untied added that trustees want to revisit the percentage allocation at some point. He also said both sides are receptive to a multi-year contract if for no other reason than a cooling off period. He specifically asked Slater if his summation was accurate. Slater said it was.

Hebron Fire Chief Randy Weekly said reductions will cut service. He reminded council that an independent consultant examined the percentage allocation back in 2004 and agreed it was fair and equitable. He then pointed out that the township’s share of actual expenses has been less than 60 percent every year since then except last year when uncertainty about the contract delayed replacing a fire prevention officer for 13 months. Weekly is very reluctant to use EMS billing revenues for operational expenses. “We don’t know what we are going to get.” A few minutes later, Mason, who is a fire chief in Franklin County, agreed that “there is no guarantee with EMS billing.”

Weekly said a long-term plan was drafted in 2005 and shared with the township. He said the department has stuck pretty close to it except for a few surprises like diesel fuel prices and a big jump in workers compensation that has since been reduced.

“If we go to 50-55 percent for the township, we either have to have the village make it up or cut services,” Mason said. “It’s a large number. I don’t see how we can do it. We haven’t planned for it.”

Several council members started talking about possibly lowering the township’s share to 58 percent. Untied said the meeting’s purpose was more to bring everyone up to date, rather to discuss a specific settlement. “I would urge council to take it under advisement.”

Mason suggested that council members be prepared to discuss it at the next regular council meeting which is set for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 26. Council member Annelle Porter asked Slater if trustees had a formal counteroffer. He said nothing had yet been formally approved.

Slater then went to Monday night’s trustee meeting.

“There’s a spirit of compromise. I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Slater reported to trustees. Black said he thought the majority of the council supports the trustees’ proposed contract. He added that paying just 55 percent of the operational expenses means the township wouldn’t be forced to spend as much from its general fund to pay for Granville and Buckeye Lake fire and EMS contracts. Black also doubts that trustees and Hebron will ever agree on the EMS billing issue. So it’s best if the township handles its own EMS billing.

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