Local governments weigh trash options

Contracts in several communities will expire over the next year.

Local governments in the region will make decisions for more than 200,000 residents over the next year on who will pick up trash as contracts expire and officials seek to contain costs and maintain quality service.

A Dayton Daily News analysis of area trash contracts indicates 10 jurisdictions in Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Warren counties will weigh their options within the next year on agreements for one of the most basic and essential of household services.

“Trash and recycling – people are passionate about, from the standpoint that they want to take the service for granted,” said Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman. “They want to put their trash out and when they get home from work, they want that trash to be gone. And if it’s not, they’re passionate about that.”

Fairborn and Tipp City this year have renewed their agreements with Waste Management Inc., while Moraine has ended longstanding ties to the nation’s largest waste hauler by inking a deal that starts next month with Republic, the multi-billion dollar industry’s second largest firm.

Miami Twp. and Kettering, meanwhile, are weighing their options now. Miami Twp. is planning to seek bids while Kettering is accepting proposals as their agreements with WMI end by January and July of 2015, respectively.

At least six other jurisdictions – including Springboro, Lebanon and Xenia – have deals that run out by the end next year.

Customers expectations high

The contracts with many area jurisdictions show services cost residential customers anywhere from nothing in Moraine to $25 a month in Oakwood. While the bills are not the most expensive for households, customers expect solid, reliable service, Schwieterman said.

“They have a high expectation – and rightfully so – of what the service should be,” he said. “It should be something they can take for granted and has no impact. They expect all of the trash to be gone when it is supposed to be collected.”

Schwieterman and Springboro City Manager Christine Thompson both said those cities give high marks to Waste Management and have no intention of switching vendors. But those decisions will be made after the proposals come in. Area administrators indicate cost and service are two key factors when it comes to choosing a solid waste contractor.

Kettering offers houseside service, an aspect Schwieterman said the city will look to keep as an option as it decides on a new contract.

That’s just fine with Mehdi Zahedi. The 55-year-old locksmith who has lived in the city for two decades has been fairly happy with that service. He likes that trash containers don’t line the curbs outside his Allendale Drive home and hopes that can continue.

Otherwise, he said, “I think it makes the town look not as pretty.”

Schwieterman said Kettering also will look in its next contract to offer curbside, automated service as a way of keeping costs down to meet residents’ desires. However, Zahedi said he would not mind a price hike – as long as it is reasonable – if he can maintain service standards.

“Service is first. Cost is second,” he said. “If they have to go up a couple of dollars in price to make it better service, that’s OK.”

Some contracts are long-term

Money was one of the reasons Huber Heights agreed last year to an eight-year deal with Republic, Assistant City Manager Scott Falkowski said.

Most area agreements analyzed by the Dayton Daily News ranged from two to five years. But Falkowski said the long-term contract Huber Heights agreed to helps insulate residents from price increases.

Previously, he said, Huber Heights allowed residents to select their own vendor, a service Kettering used to offer, and one that Beavercreek and Tipp City give residents. Other cities – such as Centerville, Dayton, Oakwood and West Carrollton – provide their own services while Riverside and Vandalia contract with Dayton.

Huber Heights opted to go with a single vendor in part to improve neighborhood aesthetics and help maintain its streets, Falkowski said.

“There was a lot of discussion about the number of trucks going up and down the street,” he said. “You could have a number of trucks on one street on different days.”

Additionally, a single vendor means fewer commercial trucks putting wear and tear on the city’s roads and a better rate for residents, Falkowski said.

“It was a real good thing for the city,” he said. “It extended the life of streets, so street improvements go further and each resident has a little more money in their pocket because of the bulk purchasing power.”

Concern about too much choice

The possibility of customers selecting their own vendors is what Tom Jonak said he is most concerned about as Miami Twp. views its options. While township officials are considering that as an alternative, the 70-year-old Jonak said such a change would increase the likelihood of trash containers lining the community’s streets on multiple days.

“For everybody to contract for their own service, you’ve got a mess. You’ve got trash cans all over the place,” he said. “Trash cans don’t really enhance the neighborhood.”

Jonak, who lives in a quiet neighborhood in the township’s northern section, said he has been “perfectly satisfied” with his current service. Jonak said he would prefer to return to the levy-based system the township used prior to contracting with Waste Management, but wasn’t optimistic about that possibility.

The township is in the process of requesting proposals, said Kyle Hinkelman, assistant director of planning and zoning. It is not yet certain if a change will be made, as the township has an option to renew its current contract, he said.

That decision will likely be made late this fall in time for residents to have a clear understanding of what direction township trustees decide on, officials said.

“I don’t know that we’ll make a change or not,” said township Trustee Doug Barry. “Any time you make a change, people are skeptical and hesitant about that.”

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