Athens is willing to join a council of governments focused on garbage services if changes to the proposal are made

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Officials with the city of Athens say they are willing to join a council of governments focused on garbage service, but changes need to be made to the proposal first.

The COG has been proposed in an effort to save Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers, whose survival is at risk after Athens chose another garbage provider in November.

The city’s administration provided an update to City Council at its meeting on Wednesday after potential members of the COG met that morning. Those potential members include Athens, Logan, Amesville, Nelsonville, the Athens-Hocking Solid Waste District and Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers.

Currently, Amesville and the solid waste district are the only ones who have agreed to join the COG.

Logan is considering joining but would only use the COG for recycling services.

Athens City Hall is seen in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Athens City Hall is seen in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Athens Service-Safety Director Andy Stone told WOUB discussions among potential members have been productive, but there “are a couple points of conflict.”

Stone said one issue is what board membership would look like, with a couple of the potential founding members opposed to allowing members who join later to “have a seat at the board.”

Their argument is “if the COG were to grow significantly or other entities join” the board would become too big, Stone said.

Another sticking point is who has a say when voting to raise the COG’s rates for garbage service.

“We’ve proposed that the entities that pay the most into the COG, whether for dues or for services should carry the most weight,” Stone said. “There are some other members that don’t think that should occur.”

“If you’re paying 40% of the revenue that goes into the COG in a given year, your vote should be 40% of the decision making,” Stone rationalized.

If a COG were to form, Stone said they expect Athens would end its contract with Rumpke, which is supposed to run until 2027. However, the city can back out of that contract early with a 60-day notice.

Athens would bring the most customers to the COG. This is because the city has a franchise district for trash collection, meaning every resident in the district has to use the same provider.

Only Athens and Nelsonville have franchise districts, so the COG would serve all their residents. 

But Amesville and Logan do not have a franchise district, allowing residents to choose a provider other than the COG.

Stone said because Athens customers would make up such a large part of the COG’s customers, the city wants more say over rates.

“If all the ratepayers in the city of Athens are the entity putting up most of the money,” he said, “Athens should have the most authority when it comes to decision making in the COG.”

Stone said “the solid waste in particular is opposed” to the vote change.

Jane Forest Redfern, director of the solid waste district, said at Wednesday’s council meeting the whole idea of the COG is to move the region forward.

“When you are moving together as a region, you have to feel like you’re an equal player,” she said. 

Redfern said creating the COG could help bring new jobs to the region.

“Recycling is the next new economy,” she said. “We can create jobs, make them local and we can utilize the resources and the waste as material for the future.”

Redfern also voiced her frustration that the city shared the talking points of the meetings.

“I thought we were sharing confidentially,” she said. “I’m not going to defend any discussion because this was supposed to be a safe place for us to have a discussion, to be able to move the COG forward.”

The time left to create a COG, however, is running out faster than initially thought.

In an email to the City Council, AHRC Executive Director Crissa Cummings said “a mistake was made in the financial forecast” when the nonprofit testified before the council in January.

That report “made it look like we would be solvent until next summer,” she said.

But now, “the AHRC financial forecast predicts that AHRC will run out of cash sometime late summer, early fall of this year,” Cummings said.

Even with the little time left, Stone said he does not want to make a quick decision that could hurt the city.

“I’m going to do the best that I can to administer services and safety in the city,” he said. “When we’re rushed, we’re simply not able to do that.”

Joining the COG would also require approval from the City Council.

Mayor Steve Patterson said the administration is waiting for outside legal counsel to look over the agreement and bylaws before putting any legislation before the City Council.

The next meeting between potential COG members is scheduled for Tuesday.