Liberty and West Chester exploring discount trash service

Credit: Submitted

Credit: Submitted

The trustees in Liberty and West Chester townships had their “trash talk” this week and came to a consensus they will start the process of a joint contract to provide cheaper trash and recycling service to their residents.

Anne Fiehrer Flaig, director of the Butler County Recycling and Solid Waste District, is facilitating the process she told the trustees they could save residents about $11.43 monthly for combined trash and recycling service, based on the countywide average. The average monthly cost in the six cities and Ross Twp. that contract the service with Rumpke is $15.82 where Liberty and West Chester residents pay $27.25.

She told the Journal-News on Friday she was able to collect more data from Rumpke, and with fuel surcharges and service fees, the township residents are paying even more than their neighbors than estimated.

“Households in the township are paying even more than my initial reported cost difference ($11.72) the cost difference begins to approach $20 in higher cost per household per month,” she said. “This means township residents are paying upwards of $230 more every year for their household trash and recycling service than their neighbors in the city of Fairfield.”

The idea is to put a joint contract out for bid to get a guaranteed rate — likely with small annual increases — for five years. Currently residents in the two townships contract on their own with trash haulers.

“The savings when you multiply it by household by five years we’re talking about millions of dollars in savings,” she said.

West Chester started talking about trash in September when the township decided to get rid of its recycling bins because people were dumping everything from porcelain toilets to couches at recycling bins, causing extra work for service employees. The bins were removed Oct. 1 and officials told residents they would have to pay Rumpke privately if they want to recycle.

Ross Twp. joined with Colerain and Springfield townships — Springfield has since dropped out — in 2016 and their residents are saving bout $60 annually by going out for a competitive bid through the consortium.

ExploreWest Chester is ‘talking trash with Liberty Twp.’, may combine services

Fiehrer Flaig said they can tailor their bid specifications but trash, recycling, yard waste and monthly large item pick-up are standard. Some of the options include:

  • Limited collection for smaller households
  • Weekly or bi-weekly recycling collection
  • One fee
  • “Snowbirds” can get a reduced rate if they are out of town more than a month

“Right now the trash bill that I pay is just one price, there aren’t any options besides recycling or no recycling,” West Chester Twp. Trustee Ann Becker told the Journal-News. “So it would give more choices and it’s a better price because we’d all go in together, it’s two-fold, I think it’s a really exciting option.”

Fiehrer Flaig said the township residents would all have to participate in the program — there are a few opt-out exceptions allowed — but they aren’t going to force anyone to recycle.

Liberty Twp. Trustee Todd Minnear said he thinks the all-in provision could be problematic.

“We don’t have anything like that today, we don’t have a service that we provide that we like don’t provide somebody to opt out for,” he said. “As you’ve gone through this process with other communities do you have residents showing up and just saying I don’t want you managing this piece of my service, I don’t want the government messing with this kind of thing.”

Liberty Twp. Trustee Tom Farrell said they ran into this issue with electric and gas aggregation.

“We have this vocal minority that no matter what you do to save them money they want the decision to be theirs. In the aggregation again, saved them a lot of money, gave them an opt out, put it on the ballot, so again we got their permission before we even made the decision for them and we still get complaints,” Farrell said.

“What gives you the right to the make the decision on my rates. You gave us the right, it was on the ballot, you voted to give us the right number one and number two you can opt out. In this scenario we have neither of those options. Those two things are concerning, it’s not a deal breaker but they are concerning.”

Fiehrer Flaig suggested the townships could survey their residents as part of this year-long process and impress upon them the whole point is to provide a high service standard at a lower cost.

Ross Twp. Trustee Ellen Yordy told the Journal-News they did have some “naysayers” but once they realized they would be saving money they were onboard. She said they made sure the issue was widely known and and resident’s opinions were sought.

She said a Morgan Twp. trustee tried to push trash service through on his own and “all heck broke loose” and the idea went down in flames.

The trustees in both jurisdictions are worried they could be forcing residents who do not use trash services to suddenly have to pay. In Liberty 12,706 households use Rumpke and West Chester 15,856. She wasn’t able to obtain numbers from Republic by the joint session, but told the Journal-News those household tallies are 1,279 for West Chester and 210 for Liberty.

“We could be forcing a couple hundred families to pay, if it was $150, $200, $300 a year, to pay $300 a year they weren’t paying before,” Becker said.

West Chester Trustee Mark Welch said, “they say that nothing is as powerful as a good idea that has come and I think that this may be an education issue and a marketing issue.”

Fiehrer Flaig said they can explore the opt-out options.

The group didn’t take formal action but both jurisdictions will start gathering more data and Fiehrer Flaig will be working on a request for proposals. She said if all goes to plan the service could be available in February 2024.

“Consolidation using our economy of scales on the surface looks to be a very good idea,” Farrell told the Journal-News. “We need to get more data, we need to look at opt-out options as well as how it impacts our residents in more detail before the decision is made.”

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