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Salem moving conservatively on single trash hauler issue

SALEM — Mayor John Berlin said he’s putting together a bid package to seek bids for a single trash hauler program, then he’ll ask city council’s Committee of the Whole to review the document and decide where to go from there.

Council could decide to give authorization to advertise for bids from trash haulers and enter a contract with one of them. Or council could decide against going forward. Either way, the trash decision rests with city council.

“This is an important issue for the city of Salem, it should be given good consideration,” Berlin said.

The mayor advised council he was working on preliminary bid specifications during his report at the council meeting Tuesday night, when he reminded them of the results of the single trash hauler questionnaire that was sent to 5,300 city households which receive water/sewer bills. Of the responses received, the results showed that 878 said yes and 535 said no when asked if they would favor a single trash hauler program that included various services, including curbside recycling.

Based on the 62 percent positive response, Berlin said he’s been working on the bid specs, utilizing contracts from various communities that have single hauler trash programs, including Hubbard, Genoa Township, Liberty Township, Orange Township, Hudson, Alliance, Painesville, Mentor, Dover and North Canton.

He estimated it could take a couple months to put together the package. Councilman Geoff Goll commented that he was presuming the package would be equal to the questionnaire and include those same points, which Berlin confirmed, saying the package would include all that and more. During his report, he said he would submit the bid package to the law director and city council for approval, prompting Councilman Ron Zellers to ask “aren’t we going to discuss what’s involved?”

“Council always has the right to say no,” Berlin said, adding that in order for council to have a bid package to review, “we have to prepare it.”

Zellers countered that what he meant to say was that he’s not sure the public knows what it’s going to be going forward. He questioned if people who don’t have service now would have to be involved. Also, one of the biggest concerns he said he’s heard from people was whether the recycling containers near the fire station would still be here.

The mayor said the recycling center would remain, although not as many containers may be required.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who wasn’t in attendance when the results of the survey were announced at the last council meeting, said she’s heard a lot of talk about the wear and tear on the streets from the trash trucks, but they have not heard what effect there would be on tax dollars if a local trash hauler went out of business because they would not be able to put in a bid and would lose customers.

The mayor didn’t know the answer to that, but did say each hauler pays $50 a year to be a registered contractor in the city, so if five of the six are eliminated there could be $250 less per year.

Dickey said she wants to tread carefully when talking about possibly eliminating people’s jobs and taking away choice from people.

Councilman Roy Paparodis said he would imagine a company that was able to bid on the contract would be a company of a decent size and in the event that another company was forced out, then the company winning the contract should consider buying that other company, their equipment and keeping their employees.

“Could that be considered so we’re not putting people on the street?” he asked, saying the company should buy the company from Salem that they could end up replacing.

Councilman Andrew Null asked if there was any thought to bidding the contract by ward to give the smaller company a chance to bid. Councilman Steve Faber also said it should be by ward. The city includes four wards.

Berlin said none of the other contracts he’s seen have done it by ward. The buying power of having the whole city is what would keep the cost down, stabilizing the prices for everyone.

Council President Tom Baker commented that there’s no verbage in place at this moment and said there’s no truth to some of what’s been online. He asked if it gets to the point where council doesn’t go forward with a single trash hauler, could council put more regulations on the trash haulers who do come to Salem? The mayor said days could be requested for pickup or times and right now there’s no Saturday or Sunday pickup.

Dickey said she’s hearing mixed comments about the idea. Some favor the idea if all the services mentioned on the survey could happen. Some were confused about being asked and didn’t send in the form. Some are very passionate about the hauler they use and the one they don’t want.

“It’s a very touchy subject,” she said.

Berlin said he didn’t put anything in the questionnaire that wasn’t in other contracts. Dickey said people are also distrustful of what will happen at the end of the contract and whether prices could shoot up if smaller companies are gone by then.

Berlin previously said the single trash hauler program would affect single family dwellings and duplexes, not apartment complexes or condominium groups or commercial businesses.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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