By Jim Newell
The Orion Township Board of Trustees voted 6-1 during its meeting on Monday to begin the process of looking into a consolidated garbage service for the township’s approximately 13,000 households.
Trustee John Steimel cast the lone nay vote.
Trustee Brian Birney, a member of the township’s waste and recycling committee, made the motion authorizing Supervisor Chris Barnett to pursue a non-binding request for proposals (RFP) to get bids from waste hauling companies.
“There is no secret that there’s been quite a bit of discussion, as of late, regarding garbage pickup in Orion Township,” said township Supervisor Chris Barnett. “We’re tasked with making the very difficult decisions on behalf of the 40,000 people that we represent…it’s really difficult to make everybody happy all the time.”
It’s an issue that has been divisive not only on the township board, but heated in the community. Many residents were angry over the township’s decision last month not to renew Odd Job Disposal’s permit to operate in the township.
But the process of switching to a single waste hauler could take months, with the switch likely not coming until 2020.
After getting bids, the township would have to draft a new ordinance, hold public hearings and then the board would have vote to proceed with a consolidated waste hauler plan and contract.
A non-binding bid allows the township to solicit bids from companies, compare costs and services without entering into a contract.
Treasurer Donni Steele, Clerk Penny Shults, Trustees Mike Flood, Brian Birney and Julia Dalrymple all supported pursuing non-binding bids in order to gauge cost and services and determine the feasibility of the option.
“I can tell you, taking no action is not an option – at least for me,” Barnett said.
If the township pursues a single-hauler option, the administration and board would be able to set criteria a garbage hauler would have to meet, making services uniform for all Orion Township residents.
The township would also be able to negotiate and set up a competitive bid process and be a party to the contract so that it could hold waste hauling companies accountable if there is a problem, such as issuing fines, Barnett said.
“We have a contract; the township has teeth,” he said, adding that a single hauler option would likely save residents’ money, projecting up to $2 million in savings annually.
The board also said that $40.83 is the average quarterly rate for communities in Oakland County that have switched to a single garbage hauler. Most of the southern portion of the county, except Waterford and South Lyon, have done so, and other communities in the north part of the county are researching it, Barnett said.
“No one is advocating that we would put this on your tax bill,” Barnett said. “The bill would go to the homeowner, not the township.”
Currently, residents contract privately with a waste hauler; the township only issuing operating permits to garbage companies and can review their performance, as in the Odd Job case, if it becomes a public health, safety and welfare issue.
“I am still not convinced. Especially just a general thing. I don’t like centralizing this. Just because so many other people do it, it doesn’t mean I want it for my community,” Steimel said. “Maybe as we go through this RFP process it might help. I think by the time you try to answer everybody’s concerns, you don’t see the cost savings that you’re talking about. At least now, I can have choices.”
Steimel also said he was worried that it might work well at first, but not in the long run.
“It’s been proven time and time again, something like this, we tend to get lazy about doing it,” he said.
Residents spoke for and against a single waster hauler option, with more supporting a single garbage hauler option.
Cheryl Ballard said she only puts out one bag of garbage every two weeks and is concerned about the cost and whether she would be forced to have services – like leaf pickup and recycling – that she doesn’t want.
“I totally agree with John (Steimel), I like choices,” she said. “I know that you guys are going to push forward on this, but I hope that you are checking apples to apples, not apples to oranges.”
Michael Rhadigan, a 25-year resident, has a single garbage hauler through his homeowners’ association and said he supports the township pursuing a single-hauler option.
“I don’t understand how the different companies would have different rates,” Rhadigan said. “Choice is good, but I don’t know that anyone would make a choice to spend more.”
Michelle Arquette-Palermo wants the township to switch to a single hauler saying it would be better for the roads if fewer garbage trucks came through the township; better for the environment by reducing gas emissions; and save residents money.
The board also approved waste hauling permits for two new companies, TNR Lawn & Dumpster LLC and Community Disposal, to begin collecting waste in the township.
The township board voted at its March 18 meeting to renew waste hauling licenses for Advanced Disposal, Waste Management and Green For Life Environmental to collect solid waste in the township, but did not renew Odd Job Disposal’s license.
Under Ordinance 73, Solid Waste & Recyclable Materials Collection Regulation, a waste hauler has to provide the insurance certificate for vehicles it wishes to register to pick up trash in the township. The ordinance also allows the board to revoke, or decide to against renewing, a waste hauler’s license if that company’s operations are deemed a health, safety and welfare issue for residents.
The township has contracted with Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), a waste, sustainability and recycling consulting firm out of Ann Arbor, to advise on what approach the township should take.
The Village of Lake Orion, which has a single hauler agreement with Green For Life, negotiates its own garbage and recycling services and village residents would not be affected by the township’s decision.
By Jim Newell