Owosso pulls single trash hauler proposal

Owosso City Council members at a regular meeting Monday discuss setting a public forum for Nov. 12 on the city’s trash-hauling ordinance.

OWOSSO — A controversial proposal to contract with a citywide trash hauling company that offers curbside recycling is “off the table,” several city officials said during a regular meeting Monday.

Instead, Owosso City Council members set a public forum for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 inside the fire hall truck bay, inviting local trash haulers and residents to suggest improvements to the city’s trash collection ordinance.

“At this time, we are not looking at single hauler with recycling,” City Manager Nathan Henne said. “The public hearing is going to involve the city council but it also gives haulers’ representatives a chance to sit with council. We’re looking for ideas to improve the ordinance.”

A few weeks ago, Henne encouraged city council members to consider switching to a single hauler, citing damage to city roads from heavy trucks and hoarding of trash by some city residents, coupled with enforcement challenges.

Currently, residents can contract with any trash-hauler they choose, including Owosso companies Kelly’s Refuse, Premier Waste Services and Specialty Salvage. About six haulers remove garbage from city curbs on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

About five residents expressed concerns about using a single hauler to council members during public comment Monday, saying the move might put local companies out of business, wouldn’t reduce damage to city streets or necessarily stop trash hoarding.

“I’m personally against (a single hauler),” Owosso resident Deborah Reynolds said. “I don’t like taking business away from our friends and family. We would be letting them down. We take too much business outside of our town. We should be using people from our town.”

“It doesn’t matter how many companies do it, you’re still going to have the same unit of weight on the streets,” John Smith said, describing the rationale for a single hauler as “kind of ludicrous.”

Council member Jerome Haber said a single-hauler is off the table and thanked local haulers for their concern and effort in addressing issues with the city’s trash ordinance.

“We’re keeping everything at status quo with the haulers,” Haber said. “We feel we need their input — it will be really valuable. They know what’s going on.”

“The focus is on the ordinance and how it can be amended to support the needs of the city and residents,” council member Lori Bailey said.

The city has hired public relations adviser Carrie Rathbun-Hawks to facilitate the forum. She has recommended allowing council members five minutes to state their position, give each local hauler five minutes to speak, and give residents each three minutes to share their thoughts.

If there is time, Rathbun-Hawks will lead an open discussion period with council members and trash haulers. Anticipating an overflow crowd, officials are holding the public forum in the city’s large fire truck bay instead of city hall.

Although the current ordinance allows residents to choose a hauler, it doesn’t require residents to hire a trash hauler at all. The rule does say they must not allow trash to accumulate and must store it in an appropriate receptacle to await transport to a landfill.

Henne said there has been an average of 196 trash violations per year since 2013, representing 21.4 percent of all ordinance violations since 2013.

In at least one case, there was so much garbage piling up for so long inside a resident’s garage that the city had to send Department of Public Works employees sporting protective gear to collect the trash and haul it to a landfill. The homeowner was charged for the cost, but the cleanup took place only after months of following ordinance violation procedures.

Near the end of Monday’s session, council member Daniel Law expressed concern about a recent amendment to the sign ordinance, which includes new restrictions, and the idea of switching to a single trash-hauling system.

“We are openly doing damage to local business. I find that a really disturbing trend. We want them to thrive and grow,” Law said. Some residents in the audience cheered the remarks.

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