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Nov
26
2022
Village Council

Village Council considers solid waste fee

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At the most recent Village Council meeting on Nov. 7, Council members discussed the possibility of adding a 2% fee to residential solid waste bills. If the fee is adopted, the Village would use the funds to educate residents on ways to reduce their organic solid waste, including recycling and composting.

Council member Marianne MacQueen brought the idea back to Council members’ attention during the first reading of an ordinance that would adjust the solid waste rates for customers in the village. According to a presentation from Village Manager Josué Salmerón, the rate adjustment is a result of increased fees from Rumpke, with whom Council approved a five-year solid waste contract at their Monday, Oct. 17, meeting. Salmerón said Villagers would see a 10% increase plus a small fee — about $10 per household — for spring cleanup.

MacQueen said she had spoken with Salmerón, who told Council that he had been eyeing the strategy for about two years.

“It is a very common strategy in communities that are looking to reduce their carbon footprint,” Salmerón said. “In 2021 solid waste [disposal] went up and recycling went down.”

MacQueen voiced concerns at the rising amount of solid waste from villagers, saying she believed villagers may not understand what items can be recycled or composted. Giving an example from a recent trip to Vermont, MacQueen said she wanted the Village to be more thoughtful when offering and enforcing alternatives to throwing trash into a landfill.

“Our waste production is a huge deal,” MacQueen said. “When I was in Vermont, [people] got fined if [they] put organic waste in the garbage.

MacQueen said she believes the Village has an opportunity to join other entities, such as Agraria, who are seeking to address climate concerns.

“[Agraria Outreach Director] Alex Klug has planned a waste audit,” MacQueen said. “It’s a way for our citizens to start looking at how much they’re wasting.”

Salmerón said the 2% fee would raise about $7,000 for the Village to use for education or to purchase buckets that villagers could use to dispose of their organic waste.

Alluding to the ongoing climate crisis, MacQueen said she would rather spend money on education than on sending the village’s trash to a landfill.

“I want to strongly put a plug in for adding a little percentage so that we can educate our community and do some projects,” MacQueen said.

To date, a municipal organic waste program does not exist and would have to be designed, Salmerón said in a follow-up email.

Council member Kevin Stokes asked if Rumpke already does education about recycling and alternatives to solid waste.

“Yes,” Salmerón replied, “but the real question is, ‘To what extent?’”

Salmerón said the Village partners with Rumpke to disseminate information about recycling through mail and posts on the Village’s website. In response to a question asking how new educational materials would be different from what the Village is already sending, Salmerón said the new materials would be developed by Village administration or the Climate Action Sustainability Program steering committee.

Council members discussed whether they could add the 2% fee to the ordinance, which was scheduled for a second reading. Village Solicitor Amy Blankenship told Council members that the additional 2% would substantially change the ordinance, so Council should write a separate ordinance that includes the additional fee. In an email following the meeting, Village Clerk Judy Kintner clarified Council’s process moving forward.

“[The solid waste ordinance] will be brought back as an emergency reading along with a second version [which will be read as an emergency] that includes a 2% ‘educational fee,’” she said. “Council will have to select one of these to pass.”

Legislation

• Council approved the annual flour and sugar distribution, a tradition started by revered 19th-century villager Wheeling Gaunt.

• Council approved a measure authorizing the police department to begin a therapy dog program, which will cost the Village about $2,500 annually after an initial cost of $12,000, $10,000 of which was covered by grants.

• Council approved a contract with Amy Kemper, who will serve as the Village’s newest finance director after the former finance director, Matt Dillon, resigned in June. Kemper will receive a salary of $85,000 annually.

• Council approved a contract with Judy Kintner, who will continue to serve as the Village’s treasurer in addition to her role as Village Council clerk.

• Council heard a first reading of an ordinance that would update the language around the Village’s treasurer role. According to Village Solicitor Amy Blankenship, the treasurer’s role, which includes overseeing and reporting the Village’s investments, has not been updated in the codified ordinances since 1999. If passed, the new legislation will clearly define the roles of treasurer and finance director.

• Council approved a resolution authorizing Salmerón, who has been serving as finance director since the resignation of the former finance director, to pay invoices to Julian & Grube, a business that provides audit services for the Village. The resolution also included a “Then and now” statement, which shows that the funds were available both at the time when the contract was signed and when the Village was invoiced.

In other Council business, Nov. 7:

During Salmerón’s report to Council, the News asked about a letter from Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger to Council that discussed an exponential increase in reports and complaints against villagers who are perceived to have impassable sidewalks. Swinger’s letter said the Village’s current policy says each complaint must be thoroughly investigated, which has become cumbersome with the uptick in complaints.

Swinger reminded Council that the complaint-driven process was a decision to reduce the number of legal encounters for villagers. She said the current process allows for staff to address about 10 complaints per week, but:

“Should Council wish for violations to be addressed as ‘any and all complaints received must be followed up in a timely fashion,’ then a plan to increase funding to manage this change will be necessary as the current staffing level cannot address this volume of complaints.”

Swinger said she saw two options for Council: choose to not “aggressively” pursue complaints by charging property owners with misdemeanors, or hire a part-time officer who would solely work on code enforcement.

Salmerón requested that Council add an agenda item addressing the rise in complaints.

“I think Denise’s letter made it clear that we are reaching a threshold where this light touch and decriminalization isn’t working,” Salmerón said.

In response to a question from Council President Brian Housh, MacQueen said she wanted the Active Transportation Committee to look at the issue.

Salmerón said he appreciated the work of the Active Transportation Committee, but the complaints have reached a level where the Village needs to decide what direction it will take with enforcement.

“I think there are some [Village] value issues we need to address and some tangible capital challenges that we need to address,” Salmerón said, giving an example of needed sidewalk repairs that lack a funding source.

According to Salmerón, the complaints span from major obstructions, such as foliage creating blind spots for drivers, to minor obstructions, such as flowers leaning over the sidewalk.

“Some of the complaints are grounded in legitimate concerns, some are a matter of perspective,” Salmerón said.

Housh said he believed the issue was one that should be dealt with via a Village policy.

“I think Council needs to give a sense of whether this is an area where we want to beef up enforcement,” Housh said.

Kintner said Council could simply give the zoning department the agency to determine the severity and urgency of a complaint.

If Council were to “continue to enforce violations on a complaint-based basis and a priority basis, and [Swinger] were to continue to receive 150 complaints in a month, she would probably deem 140 of them nonsafety issues. That would be within her wheelhouse,” Kintner said. “Right now [Swinger] has the demand that every single violation be actively addressed and investigated.”

Kintner went on to say that empowering staff to determine what complaints constitute a safety issue would eliminate the need to involve the Active Transportation Committee.

Housh said the committee had already been dealing with the complaints and that the committee would bring recommendations to Council.

“It sounds like Council wants to talk more about it,” Housh said.

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