The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is soliciting responses to an idea for a one-time pilot project for a consortium of Portage communities to bid out combined trash and recycling pickups.
The plan would exclude the county's recycling district from bidding because the district does not collect trash.
Individual communities could not bid for combined services on their own, outside the consortium. But that doesn't answer some of the objections that shot down the county district's proposed plan last year.
OEPA took over writing the county district's plan after ratification failed.
The cities of Aurora, Streetsboro and Ravenna voted against the plan, along with the villages of Mantua and Garrettsville, plus Hiram Township. The district needed communities representing 75 percent of the county population to approve the locally-written plan.
Andrew Booker, a supervisor in OEPA's Division of Materials and Waste Management, said the consortium plan would allow the district "to figure out if there was enough business left to keep the district stable and sustainable."
Tom Smith, a member of the policy group for the Portage County Solid Waste Management District, said the proposal could spell the end of the district's 25 years of providing recycling services.
"This whole thing is geared to a small minority" of communities who wanted to split the district, he said. "You are going to destroy the entire plan, destroy the whole district," Smith said.
OEPA representatives aired the preliminary idea June 23 during back-to-back meetings with the district's policy group and other interested parties.
Waste district commissioner Kathleen Chandler said she was concerned the pilot project "would split off a large segment of our customer base." She also said she was concerned low bids for the pilot project would force the district out of business and then costs to consumers will go up.
"Without the county district, there's no competition for private businesses," said Randolph Trustee Sue White.
Booker said the June 23 presentation was just to indicate the direction the OEPA is taking. The plan was not done by June 30 as first proposed. Christopher Germain of the OEPA said the consultant's contract has been extended through the end of the year.
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