Consultant To Look At Issue Of Controlling Destination Of Athens-Hocking Trash

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A consultant will be hired to look at whether the Athens-Hocking Solid Waste District should designate the disposal site for all trash collected in the two counties.

At a meeting Monday, the district's board voted to authorize Roger Bail, the district's operations coordinator, to spend up to $5,000 to hire a consultant to study the issue of flow control. The district has the authority to exercise garbage flow control, designating where haulers must take their trash. If the district decides to utilize flow control, the likely designation would be the Athens-Hocking Landfill near Nelsonville, from which the district receives $1 per ton tipping fee.

Bail said Wednesday that he has contacted GT Environmental of Westerville and asked the company to submit a proposal for doing a flow control study. GT Environmental is the company that did a feasibility study for the district's proposed materials recovery facility.

At the board's August meeting, Chairman Clark Sheets asked the district's attorney, Garry Hunter, to research what process would need to be followed to implement flow control. Hunter reported back at Monday's meeting, outlining a process that includes passage of a series of resolutions by the board, a public hearing and a public comment period.

Hunter raised the question of whether a study should be done in advance of considering such action.

Andrew Booker, an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency representative who was at the meeting, said he strongly recommends that a study be done. He said a decision to implement flow control could be challenged by the solid waste industry unless the district has good justification for doing it. He recommended that a detailed analysis be done.

Booker also encouraged the board to go slow, and indicated that the state at this time is not encouraging districts to implement flow control.

Sheets, a Hocking County commissioner, said the district needs to take a "serious look" at flow control.

He said haulers who previously took their trash to the privately owned Athens-Hocking Landfill are being bought-out by companies that take trash elsewhere. He mentioned Rumpke's acquisition of the residential and commercial garbage operation of Trace's A-1 Sanitation, and Rumpke's recent acquisition of most of Farmer's Refuse.

Rumpke, which has its own landfill outside the district, was already picking up residential trash in Nelsonville, and has now taken over

Farmer's commercial accounts in the city — although City Manager Mark Hall said he will seek legal clarification on whether the city's contract with Farmer's automatically transfers to Rumpke.

Sheets also pointed out that the two major customers of the Athens-Hocking trash collection operation — the city of Athens and Ohio University — have contracts that are up for renewal next year. There is no guarantee those contracts will be renewed, or that the trash will continue to go to the Nelsonville-area landfill.

Besides the loss of tipping fees to the solid waste district if trash goes elsewhere, Sheets has previously expressed concern about how a reduction in trash could impact the Athens-Hocking Landfill and has said he thinks it is important for there to be a viable in-district landfill.

Board member Lenny Eliason, an Athens County commissioner, made the motion that the board authorize Bail to hire a consultant. Eliason said Wednesday it's important for a study to be done to determine the impact of flow control on the district.

"Right now, I don't see a reason for us to do it," Eliason said of flow control, noting that the board has the option of raising the district's generation fee to offset any revenue loss. The district has a $3 per-ton fee collected on garbage generated in the district, regardless of where it is taken in Ohio for disposal.

However, Eliason said he hasn't made up his mind on flow control and wants to see the study results.

Eliason did say that the future of the Athens-Hocking Landfill is a concern because without the landfill the Athens-Hocking garbage collection operation would have to go to an out-of-district landfill and pay higher tipping fees.