By Jim Newell
The Orion Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Monday to form an ad-hoc committee to explore consolidating the township’s waste collection services.
Currently, each homeowner contracts their own garbage and recycling services.
Board members began the discussion because this is the time of year that waste haulers need to renew their permits to haul in Orion Township, Supervisor Chris Barnett said.
It’s a move that’s bound to create some controversy and dissension in the township.
In 2014, residents were outspoken in their opposition to establishing an ordinance for the township to accept bids for single waste hauler services and the amendment to ordinance 73, Solid Waste Collection Ordinance, failed to get approval at the Jan. 5, 2015 board meeting.
But times have changed and Barnett and other board members have said residents are asking to limit the number of garbage trucks driving through their neighborhoods.
Another concern is the wear-and-tear on roadways from the added heavy-vehicle traffic.
“We have a lot of garbage trucks in our community,” Barnett said, adding that the township has licensed about 126 garbage trucks to provide waste services. “That doesn’t mean that there are that many in your neighborhoods (every week).”
Barnett, trustees Mike Flood and Brian Birney and attorney Dan Kelly are the members of the committee, but board members left open the option to appoint others to the committee in the future.
Clerk Penny Shults recommended possibly putting the issue before voters. “It didn’t go well when we discussed this before. My thought is, put it on the ballot. If people want it, let them decide.”
Flood said it was the responsibility of the board to adopt or amend ordinances and was against abdicating that responsibility.
“It’s the responsibility of the township to enact ordinances and the township would be opening a Pandora’s Box by putting all ordinances up for a vote,” Flood said. “I personally like the single-hauler concept. The fly in the ointment was always how to implement it.”
Ordinance 73 was adopted Jan. 3, 1984 and has been amended six times but never to switch to single-hauler.
The township surveyed residents in 2015 and 2017 and many supported some change to the status quo. “In general, in both years, there was 2-1 support in favor of some sort of consolidation,” Barnett said.
What form any consolidation of services would take is still undecided. All the board members agreed that if consolidating services cost residents more money, they would be against the plan.
“I would be the first to say this is a terrible idea if every resident didn’t save money,” Barnett said, adding that of the 63 communities in Oakland County the majority have some sort of consolidated garbage services.
Residents have complained in the past that if the township mandates a single-hauler format they would lose their freedom of choice and it could harm the business of locally-owned waste companies, board members said.
“A lot of residents wanted to feel like they could get the best deal. How can we be sure that residents will get the best deal?” Trustee Ron Sliwinski said.
Flood said that if the township does go to a single hauler or some form of consolidated service that the plan must address the 25 percent of residents who live in apartments and other non-single-family homes.
“This township has been discriminating against multi-family dwellings and this is a great opportunity to include all residential zoning properties in the discussion,” he said.
The committee will research a potential consolidation of waste hauler services – which could include going to a single garbage hauler who offers the lowest bid for services – or some other option to reduce the number of garbage trucks on township roads.
They will also investigate an opt-out clause, how “snowbirds” could be impacted, multi-year contract options, cost and payment options (special assessment or direct billing from the waste hauler).
Barnett said he has received threats in the past for proposing adopting a single-hauler format – from waste haulers.