2011-09-10 / News

Licking Township opts for ‘free market’ trash hauling

By Charles Prince

JACKSONTOWN – Momentum has shifted from favoring single waste hauler contracts in lake-area townships to continuing to rely on open market solutions.

Licking Township Trustees unanimously agreed Tuesday night not to pursue a contract for a single waste hauler for residential waste. The decision came after two well-attended public meetings on the issue. Residents were split about 50:50 on the issue at the first meeting, but sentiment was overwhelmingly negative at the second forum.

President Joe Hart brought up the issue by providing the answers he had promised residents during the second meeting. They were:

• Could trustees put the issue on the ballot to let township voters make the decision?

• Could township voters somehow put the issue on the ballot?

• Could trustees’ decision to contract with a single hauler be subject to a referendum?

“No one, including us (trustees), can put it on the ballot,” Hart said. “There is no process for a referendum.”

All three questions were addressed in a 1996 Ohio Attorney General’s Opinion requested by Fairfield County Prosecuting Attorney

David L. Landefeld.

Opinion No. 96-006 stated, “ The General Assembly thus has vested the board of township trustees with the authority to determine whether the township should enter into a contract that makes an independent contractor the exclusive provider of waste disposal services in the township. There is no statutory athority any to submit to the township elecorate the issue whether the township should enter into such a contract. Absent such authority, the issued may not be placed on the ballot… Accordingly, absent an abuse of discretion or an unlawful interest in the contract, a contract between a township that has not adopted the limited self-government form of township government and an independent contractor that complies with relevant statutory requirements and provides that an independent contractor is the exclusive provider of waste disposal services in the township is valid, and there is no legal remedy for township residents who are unhappy with the designation of the independent contractor as the exclusive provider of waste disposal services.”

Hart then listed the reasons why he doesn’t favor a single hauler contract:

• There is a wide variety of prices and competitive pricing is available;

• The township’s most dense residential area (Harbor Hills) has opted out and that could negatively impact pricing;

• The bidding process itself could eliminate the most competitive hauler;

• Township resident and Big O executive Seth Ellington said he preferred the “open market” at the first public meeting; and

• Proponent Ed Monroe’s homeowners association could pursue their own contract much like Harbor Hills has already done.

“Our board doesn’t need to dictate who can pick up trash in Licking Township,” Hart concluded.

Trustees Ron Acord and Dave Miller agreed with Hart. “I don’t want someone else to tell me who is to pick up my trash,” Miller said. “I don’t like my rights infringed on.”

In other business Tuesday night, Hart said Licking County Water and Wastewater Director Kevin Eby told trustees that the county is conducting another income survey of Jacksontown residents in hopes that the updated results will qualify residents for at least a partial Principle Forgiveness Loan from Ohio EPA to help fund the Jacksontown Sewer project. Ohio EPA ordered Jacksontown area residents nearly five years ago to connect to the Buckeye Lake Wastewater Treatment plant after discovering that failing septic tanks were polluting a stream. The cost to extend collection lines to the area and upgrade some existing lines is estimated at $2.75 million.

A nearly four-year old income survey showed the area’s median household income was a bit too high to qualify for a principle forgiveness loan. Eby believes the current economic conditions may mean the project will qualify for some grant assistance. Jacksontown residents should have received a card notifying them of the survey this week and will get the actual survey next week.

Residents will have to turn it around quickly as the county needs responses by Thursday, Sept. 15 in order to have the aggregated results to Ohio EPA by the Oct. 3 deadline.

Eby emphasized that participation is critical. At least 83 percent of the residents must reply in order for Ohio EPA to accept the results.

With only about 100 customers on the extended system, a principle forgiveness loan that pays for part of the $2.75 million project could save each homeowner and business thousands of dollars in connection costs.

Eby told The Beacon that only the aggregated results of the survey will be sent to Ohio EPA. Individual surveys will be held in strict confidence.

Trustees also tentatively agreed to expand this year’s road resurfacing project if bids come in at or below the county engineer’s estimate. If the price is right, an additional 2.065 feet of White Chapel would be resurfaced.

Trustees also discussed replacing the township’s #2 truck with a Ford F-550 dump truck purchased off the state bid list. #2 likely needs a new engine and transmission. The new Ford would cost about $60,000, including a snow plow and salt spreader. “We need an in-between truck,” Miller explained. “The old truck is a money pit.” The new truck would also work with the township’s Durapatcher and berm box. Both Acord and Hart want to see the truck before making a decision.

Fire Chief Mike Wilson said the fire company made 89 runs in August – 69 EMS and 20 fire. He announced that firefighter Kyle Weekly passed all his medic tests and is now serving as a paramedic.

Zoning inspector Joe Walker turned in one permit and $45 in fees for August. “That was it for the month of August. Things are really slow.”

Walker added that the dispute between Thad Copperrider and the Licking County Building Department has been resolved. He can proceed with his building as long as Walker is satisfied that it qualifies for the agricultural exemption.

A scheduled executive session to interview Ed Rickels for a vacancy on the township zoning commission will be rescheduled after Rickels had to cancel for medical reasons.

Trustees’ next meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 19, at Licking Fire Company Station #3 on Jacksontown Road.

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