BARLOW - Heated words and apologies were exchanged at Monday night's Barlow Township trustees meeting as a crowd of around 70 people packed the Barlow Volunteer Fire Department building to discuss the future of the community's trash pickup service.
The meeting came on the heels of other contentious township meetings where residents voiced concerns over being forced to sign with a specific contractor and over the transparency of the proceedings.
Township Trustee Darren Roddy started the meeting by apologizing to residents who had been offended at the last meeting.
Photo by Jasmine Rogers
Around 70 residents packed into the Barlow Volunteer Fire Department Monday night to discuss a potential trash contract being considered by Barlow Township trustees.
"We would never call any of our citizens a thief," said Roddy, referring to a woman who had allegedly been called a "thief by deception".
The remark had been in reference to the sharing of trash services by neighbors, relatives, and businesses, a practice which is not allowed by most trash providers, but still widely practiced throughout the community.
The purpose of Monday's meeting was to allow residents to comment on a contract put forth by Rumpke, who offered the lowest bid for the service at the Dec. 28 meeting. Rumpke's bid of $12.20 a month for removal of one 35-gallon container of trash beat Kimble's $16.30 and Waste Management's $16.50 bid for the same service.
If approved, Rumpke's pick-up could save some residents more than 50 percent monthly, pointed out township clerk Jack Marks.
However, the move would also disallow any other waste pick-up services from operating inside the township, said Roddy.
"I've got a guy who is just getting into business and we're putting him out of business before he can even start," said township resident Joan Williams in reference to the independent service provider she uses.
Among other things, residents also expressed concern over the contract's language.
"You got to trash that contract and start over," said resident Harold Kesterson.
Specifically, residents took issue with wording in the contract that did not fully address who could be exempt from the service, what types of trash containers had to be used, and what the responsibilities of the township trustees would be in regard to enforcing payment.
"I have a real problem with you people working for the garbage company," said resident John Miller.
The contract reads that "the Township will endeavor to help encourage the payment for the delinquent account", which Miller and other residents argued would force the trustees into becoming bill collectors for the garbage company.
The wording of the potential Barlow contract is similar to the contract that Rumpke has had in place with the city of Marietta for nearly five years, said Rumpke representative Tom Wallace. Rumpke has never asked for Marietta City Council's help in demanding payment on the company's behalf, he said.
Added Roddy, "We're not going to go and police everybody and Tom understands that."
Additionally, residents were worried that the contract would no longer allow them to leave out bags of trash for pick up and would instead force them to purchase specific metal or plastic containers.
"I can tell you, we pick up 35-gallon garbage bags. We pick up Wal-Mart bags. The only thing we ask is that it be contained somehow.
We just can't go around picking up piles of trash," said Wallace.
Perhaps the biggest concern for many residents was who will be allowed exceptions from the contract. Many residents said that they currently do not subscribe to a trash service and do not wish to in the future.
"I want to know when all three of you are going to be down here to sign it. I want all three of you to sign it cause some of you might not be in here much longer," said resident Chad Lane to the trustees in reference to an exemption.
In the current contract language, the trustees would be able to grant exemptions for customers who could prove that they could legally dispose of their waste in another manner.
However, the language does not get into specifics of who qualifies for a legal exemption, how many can be granted, and how many trustees need to approve the exemption. Trustees Roddy and Richard Best are generally in favor of moving toward a single contractor while trustee John Hannan is opposed to the move.
"I think you're contract needs to include language to come up with a policy of who you're going to exempt and include the why and the how and the what for," said resident Pat Martin.
Roddy agreed it was a good idea. He also pointed out the current contract has been reviewed and approved by the Washington County Prosecutor's Office.
Finally, several residents at Monday's meeting said that trustees had not done enough to get the word out about the meeting.
"If something is going to involve the entire township there should be a better way of notifying the community," said resident Kenny Meek.
Some residents suggested sending out a mailing to all registered voters. Roddy said the township had considered township-wide mailings, but not voted on it.
Marks pointed out information about the meeting, the bids and the full language of the contract had been posted on the township's website and notice of the meeting had been posted in the paper and in notices around the community.
"Some of the older people can't get on a computer," shouted one resident.
Others said they do not get the paper and had not seen notices.
"I didn't even know there were trustee meetings and how often they were," added resident Diana Stalnaker.
Resident Carol Zimmer said the trustees could post notices on every electric pole in the township and still no one would attend the trustee meetings.
"If you want to get involved, you need to get involved," said Zimmer.
Despite vocal concerns over the plan, several attendees were present to voice support for the plan.
"I look around this meeting. This is one of the biggest turnouts I've ever seen at one of these meetings. It seems to me, we're pretty well informed," said resident Dennis Biddinger, who voiced approval for the project.
Biddinger's current trash service has raised prices the past six out of eight quarters, he said.
Rumpke's bid would lock customers into a single flat rate for three years.
"I've talked to people in Watertown and they are very pleased," said one resident, voicing her approval of the proposed move.
Nearby Watertown and Waterford Townships have both signed contracts with a single waste provider.
No decision was made on the contract.
Roddy said the next step will likely be reviewing the wording of the contract, as per request of the citizens. A decision has to be made on the contract within 45 days, he said.
Regular meetings of the Barlow Township trustees are on the second Monday of each month at 9 a.m. unless that Monday is a holiday. The meetings are held at the township hall on Warrior Drive and the public is welcome at all public meetings.