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by MIKE SEVER
Aurora City Council's vote against ratifying a proposed plan update for the Portage County Solid Waste Management District means the new plan will now be written by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
The plan needed to be endorsed by local governments representing 75 percent of the county's population. Aurora Council's March 25 unanimous vote against it put those opposed over the margin needed to scuttle the plan that would have guided the recycling district for the next five years.
Aurora Service Director John Trew recommended the city not endorse the plan, saying he did not believe it was in the best interest of local citizens.
"The concerns were the lack of transparency during the entire process," said Trew. "The solid waste district committee failed to have a technical advisory committee review their work. The county has been subsidized by the city [of Aurora] for years and we're asking that all residents pay their fair share.
"The tipping [waste generation] fee is the second highest in the state and the county uses it to subsidize its failing recycling efforts. The county provides great service, but it comes at a cost that the private sector is more talented at delivering
"We believe the plan should have allowed contracting out by the cities, not some legal words and maneuvering to circumvent the issue. There were committee members that were disingenuous during the proceedings, and competing interests were at odds."
The vote tally for cities showed Kent voting for the plan, with Ravenna, Streetsboro and Aurora opposed. Of the six villages, Brady Lake,Windham and Sugar Bush Knolls endorsed, while Mantua and Garrettsville opposed. Hiram took no action.
Of the 18 townships, all but Hiram endorsed the plan, while Nelson took no action.
PORTAGE County Commissioner Kathleen Chandler attended Aurora Council's session to argue for the city's endorsement. "I'm disappointed, but I'm sure the state will write a suitable plan for us," Chandler said.
Aurora Councilman Carl Rausch said most of the people he represents are pleased with the county's recycling service, but "the city has to look at the most economical" way of collecting recyclables.
Councilman John Kudley said he believes Aurora does a fantastic job of recycling, but it does not get the financial break and is not treated as equally as other other Portage communities because the city's efforts benefit the latter.
Soilid Waster Management District Director Bill Steiner said the vote means Portage County will miss the April 6 deadline to present an endorsed plan to the OEPA. The current plan will remain in force until a new one is written by the OEPA and signed by its director.
Steiner said he is not sure what the effect will be on the district's plans to move to single-stream collections, in which residents would no longer have to sort their recyclable materials into different bins.
The district is trying to avoid spending millions on repairs and upgrades to its Mogadore Road facility in Brimfield by moving to single-stream collection.
Steiner said he's also unsure what the effect will be on the district's efforts to contract a company to directly purchase those materials and shut down its Brimfield sorting facility.
Privatization of recycling was the stated goal of opponents to the new plan. The district policy committee resisted an immediate turn to privatization, putting in language that opened the possibility but only after review by the district.
"We will need to have a meeting with OPEA to find out what we can and cannot do, because we have to live with the current plan," Steiner said.
Aurora Advocate editor Ken Lahmers contributed to this story.
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