The proposed county yard waste collection site closure in Xenia has been delayed while the Greene County Solid Waste District Policy Committee finalizes a new five-year plan.
Closing the site is expected to save more than $200,000 in 2015 by eliminating four positions: two equipment operators, a yard waste attendant and a yard waste facility operator, according to county documents. The county would save $172,600 on salaries. Another $31,000 would be saved on utilities, supplies and fuel and repairs for vehicles and equipment.
“We’ll eliminate the positions, but not the people,” Greene County Commissioner Tom Koogler said. “We will be working with the union to make sure it’s a smooth transition.”
Environmental services is a division of the Greene County Sanitary Engineering Department. The sanitary engineering department budget is funded through user fees and charges. Environmental services is funded through solid waste disposal generation fees which totaled over $1 million last year.
Koogler, who has more than three decades of experience in the waste refuse industry, said discussions about closing the local yard waste site started last summer after the county SWD policy committee reviewed the budget. The planned closure stalled after Ohio Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to the committee advising them to hold off on their plans.
“Ohio EPA is very concerned with the potential closure of this site given that the ongoing operation of this location is a key component of the approved plan under which the district currently operates,” wrote Channon Cohen-Denson, an environmental specialist with the Ohio EPA, in a Feb. 23 letter addressed to John Martin the Greene County Solid Waste Management District Policy Committee chairman. “Ohio EPA strongly recommends that the sites not be closed until such time as the district receives approval of an updated plan that addresses closure of these sites.”
Last year, the Xenia site collected the most yard waste, about 17,296 tons, compared to the other sites in 2012; 1,190 in Bath Twp., 912 in Beavercreek and 614 in Bellbrook, according to Environmental Services data. More than 25,000 people used the Xenia site that year compared to 5,331 in Bath Twp., 3,231 in Beavercreek and 2,215 in Bellbrook.
If the Xenia site closes, residents will still have other options available. The solid waste district policy committee has been working on a memorandum of understanding with two businesses — BioSource, Inc. in Xenia and Eco-Greene Recycling Enterprises, LLC in Fairborn. Koogler said residents will be able to drop off their yard waste at these sites free of charge.
“They would accept the same materials,” Koogler said.
During a March 20 meeting, Greene County Commissioner Bob Glaser said there was a concern that a move toward privatizing yard waste collection could cause the county to incur additional costs. Currently, the county yard waste sites offer free untreated mulch which is used by the Greene County Parks and Trails department.
The department relies on the untreated mulch for various purposes including use on county walking paths, Brandon Huddleson, the assistant county administrator, said during the meeting.
Glaser estimated 17,000 tons of untreated mulch was generated at the Xenia site.
“This thing is major generator for our (recycling) requirements for EPA,” he said.
Diane Caughell, a 70 year-old Xenia resident and a former master gardener, has started a petition to keep the Xenia yard waste facility open. Caughell said she uses the facility about four times a week and has spent about 30 hours collecting 400 signatures for her petition.
“If you close that (site), it’s (waste) going to end up on the side of the road,” she said. “Their recyclables are going to end up in the trash. It defeats the purpose.”
Yard waste collection requirements were initially put in place following the landfill crisis in the 1980s when there was concern the country would run out of landfill space for future generations, according to Greene County Sanitary Engineering Director Ron Volkerding.
“The state made local governments get involved because that was the only way they could deal with it,” Volkerding said. “There wasn’t a private-sector to deal with this capacity crisis they had. All they had was the public. Now that there’s private available, the public doesn’t need to duplicate some of the services that are available.”
The policy committee plans to redirect the savings into education programs to improve and increase recycling efforts in the community.
“I think what the county policy committee is looking to do is provide services at less cost that meets the required goals in the state plan,” Volkerding said.