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Trustees bow to public opinion on single trash hauler

Nearly everyone raised their hands when Walnut Township Trustee Terry Horn asked Tuesday night how many opposed the single trash hauler proposal. Beacon photo by Charles Prince.

Nearly everyone raised their hands when Walnut Township Trustee Terry Horn asked Tuesday night how many opposed the single trash hauler proposal. Beacon photo by Charles Prince.

MILLERSPORT – The local momentum, perceived or real, for single residential trash hauler contracts ran into a concrete wall Tuesday night in Walnut Township.

A standing-room -only crowd of more than 100 residents showed up to provide public input on “the topic of contracting for a single trash hauler for residential waste in Walnut Township.”

“We aren’t here tonight to make a decision,” Trustee Sonny Dupler said at the beginning of the session. “We are here to get input.”

Dupler continued, “If we can save you money that’s what we want to do. We believe we can save you half.”

He added that the township could no longer afford to fix the damage to township roads caused by multiple trash haulers on the roads. Dupler outlined prices in neighboring Union Township in Licking County. The township began a three-year contract July 1, 2010, with Big O Refuse. Prices are:

• Basic service: $12.45/month and $11.20/month for seniors (over 65);

• Optional 96 gallon wheeled toter is $2.25/month; and

• Optional weekly commingled recycling with an 18 gallon bin is $5.75/month and $5.15/ month for seniors.

Trustee Terry Horn suggested answering questions first, then listening to comments. Questions and answers included:

• Are Ohio EPA fees included in the price? Yes;

• Do you have to have trash service? No;

• If you have trash service, do you have to use the township contractor? Yes;

• Is the township getting a licensing fee from the contractor? No, but Dupler said the township planned to require the contractor to pickup township waste for free;

• How much has Union Township saved on road maintenance? Don’t know;

• How much do you estimate you are going to save on road maintenance? Don’t know;

• Has a feasibility study been done? No;

• Who brought the idea to trustees? Dupler talked about it with Union Township Trustee John Slater about five months ago;

• What is the weight restriction on roads? None of the trustees knew;

• Are we going to get a chance to vote on this proposal? No;

• How long until trustees make a decision on the proposal? No specific time line; and

• Do trustees expect a particular company to get the contract? No.

Horn’s efforts to focus first on questions became increasingly difficult. His comment that it “is being done in many places” was greeted with a chorus of “that doesn’t make it right.”

Several residents suggested that the issue be put to a vote by residents to loud applause.

A number of residents told trustees not to tell them how to spend their money. Several noted that thanks to competition from smaller companies like CMI Waste, their savings from a contract based on the Union Township prices would be negligible.

Daniel Shackelford, co-owner of CMI Waste, told trustees, “I don’t want the contract. I believe in competition.” He added that he knows some people are using his well-publicized low prices to get a better deal from their current hauler and that’s fine with him. His comments drew loud applause from the audience.

Several residents commented that this proposal to take away the ability to choose your trash hauler would be just the first with more to come. One resident asked if they would only be able to buy Pepsi and Bud Light at the Village Pantry.

Several said the issue was the level of governmental control over their lives and they were drawing the line now. One said, “We don’t want socialist government here in Walnut Township.”

At one point, Horn asked for a show of hands on how many people opposed the idea. The response is portrayed in the above photo. Nearly every hand was raised. No hands were raised when Horn how many supported a single hauler. The response was the same when he asked how many weren’t sure. No one spoke in favor of the single hauler plan.

“I agree with you,” Horn said. “I’m just trying to get the facts out.”

When a resident asked if an public input meeting was planned, several other residents quickly answered the question – “How many times do you have to be told ‘no’.”

“I have personally come to understand it is not a good idea,” Horn added. “I don’t see a need to prolong the process.”

Dupler initially proposed tabling the issue until the next meeting. “I think they want us to decide tonight,” Horn told him.

After the show of hands, Horn asked his fellow trustees for their opinions.

Dupler quickly seized the moment by moving “to drop this whole issue” to loud applause. “How do you get to make the decision?” Horn asked and then seconded Dupler’s motion. The vote was unanimous. It took just 55 minutes to stop a single trash hauler contract proposal dead in its tracks.

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