The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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October 9, 2013

Conneaut City Council warms to one-hauler trash option

CONNEAUT — One trash hauler who would serve every residential customer in Conneaut, once a sticking point with City Council, is an idea that appears back on the front burner.

At Monday night's finance/ordinance committee meeting, members who attended generally agreed with a pending ordinance that would authorize the city manager to seek proposals from haulers interested in a city-wide contract. The city would be under no obligation to accept any quotes and council would have final say on any selection.

Legislation that would put the plan into motion is poised for a vote at Tuesday night's holiday-delayed meeting.

Two weeks ago, council revived the ordinance that had been tabled weeks ago for further study. Since it was shelved, members spoke of various amendments, including one version that would discard the one-hauler idea but mandate curbside recycling and divide the city into districts to ensure consistent pickup dates.

But in the end, it appears council will give strongest consideration to the plan that would allow City Manager Tim Eggleston to request quotes for residential trash hauling only. Such an agreement would help haulers offer the best consumer price possible, which ultimately was a selling point for some members.

"There's so many discrepancies in what people are paying," said Council President Thomas Udell. "(A one-hauler system) would definitely control that."

The ordinance would also require the successful vendor provide curbside recycling, a move that will help Ashtabula County meet recycling performance guidelines set by the state.

When first discussed, the one-hauler proposal was blasted by some residents and smaller trash-hauling companies, saying it takes away customers' freedom of choice and would force business to shut down.

Eggleston said the city's request for proposals would also seek prices for customer billing: one if the city handled the chore, most likely within water/sewer bills, or whether the hauler sent out notices. The city is the better option, Eggleston said, since the cost to consumer would be less and the water/sewer department could keep tabs on properties that should be billed.

Some council members were still leery of the city getting into the trash-billing business. Some people still haven't paid assessments for sidewalk repairs and sewer installation completed years ago, said Councilman-at-large John Roach.

Eggleston conceded the entire process will be bumpy at the start.

"I'm not saying implementation will be smooth by any means," he said. "Let's wait until we get (quotes)."

Councilman-at-large and committee chairman Neil LaRusch, who has led a charge to clean up Conneaut via housing and building legislation, said he understood companies can provide better rates if assured they will handle every household, not just one or two per street. For that reason, the district plan may have been ill-advised, he said.

"We've talked about amendments but they never got done," LaRusch said. "It seems a good thing it didn't work out."

A handful of companies, including some out-of-town businesses, are apparently interested in handling Conneaut's residential trash pickup, LaRusch said. "Several big companies want to get involved," he said.

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