by MIKE SEVER
Portage County Commissioner Chris Smeiles was ousted Oct. 31 from his post as chairman of the policy committee of the county's solid waste management district.
But the committee went on to adopt many of the changes to its proposed five-year plan update advocated by Smeiles.
What upset some panelists was not the call to include privatization of recycling as an option, but the short time frame and manner the changes were being pushed on the committee in the past two months.
"We had no comments and no comments, and suddenly we get phone calls" about changes, committee member Pat McCon said.
Panelists were concerned they would not have time to study the financial effects on the district of such changes.
Many of the changes came from the public at a work session called by Smeiles last week that did not have a quorum of the committee.
The panel OK'd a majority of the suggested changes, including language that allows the district to "single stream" its recyclables, or solicit bids to deliver recyclables directly to private recycling facilities.
"I think that's what we intended to do all along," McCon said. He said language that allows municipalities to solicit contracts from private haulers "has been in the plan" for years.
ON OCT. 31, Smeiles and Commissioner Tommie Jo Marsilio again pushed for more public comment time. Tracy Wallach, who was named chairwoman after Smeiles' ouster, cut off public comment.
Wallach said not every public meeting has to allow public comment, and that it was a work session for the committee on the plan's language.
Smeiles joined the fray by telephone, saying he was "trying to expand and include other people."
McCon replied, "Personally, Chris, I'd like to avoid turning this into a circus, which you seem to like to do."
In the past two months, Smeiles had pushed for the five-year-plan update to permit immediate privatization of the county's recycling program.
The meeting got off to a rough start with some audience members trying to comment on the changes, but Wallach put a quash to public comment.
Marsilio objected, saying the meeting was public and as such should allow comment.
"I object to you [Marsilio] saying we don't want to hear from the public. We do. Every public meeting doesn't need to have a public comment period," McCon said.
The proposed five-year update will now have to be distributed and open for public comments for 30 days before coming back for a public hearing. Then the final proposed plan will be distributed for ratification by local communities.
Jurisdictions representing a majority of the county's population must ratify the plan.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4154