Burns Twp. residents speak out on trash plan

Argus-Press Photo/Sally York Burns Township residents express their views about a proposed special assessment for a single township-wide trash collection service during a public hearing by the township board Monday at the township hall.

BURNS TWP. — Residents who voiced their opposition to a proposed township-wide special assessment for trash collection will have to make their voices clear again at a May 8 meeting, officials say.

Burns Township residents packed the township hall at a March 4 meeting to discuss whether the township should switch to a single trash collector. Many in attendance were opposed to the plan for various reasons, including losing their ability to choose a company and seniors on a fixed income being forced to purchase a service they don’t want.

Board members said last month that a single trash collector would generally save residents money and provide better services, including recycling. The plan would also reduce the number of garbage trucks on the road, given that residents currently use at least six different companies, board members said.

The board last month opened bids on a three-year contract, receiving responses from two haulers, Waste Management in Venice Township and Owosso-based Specialty Salvage.

Waste Management submitted the lower bid. The township would pay Waste Management about $192,444 for the first year. Residents would be charged $14.50 per month the first year for the service, which would include a free trash container, curbside recycling and large-item collection twice a month.

The special assessment, imposed only on parcels with houses, would increase to $15.23 in the second year and $15.99 in the third year of the contract.

At the March 4 meeting, residents were asked to declare in writing their support or objection to the assessment. Clerk Shirley Riley provided legal pads for residents to sign in support or objection. After signatures were collected, township officials said they had to count them to determine how many residents had signed.

Township Supervisor Bradley Howard said if homeowners representing 20 percent of all the land in the township objected to the proposal, then in order for the township to move forward, landowners representing 50 percent of all land would have to support the assessment in writing.

Following the meeting, however, and after consulting with an attorney, township officials concluded that for a special assessment to be approved, several criteria must be met for the signatures that were collected to be valid.

“The process requires a couple of public hearings,” Howard said this week. “We started the process and there were some legal questions about special assessments. For example, a husband and wife, or co-owners of a parcel of land, they both have to sign for their signatures to be counted for that parcel. Also, for any proposed special assesment, it’s not decided by the number of voters, it’s determined by the percentage of property in the township. We want to be responsible and have all available information out there for residents to make a decision.”

Howard said a meeting at 7:30 p.m. May 8 at the township hall will provide officials the opportunity to clarify the requirements for residents to support or oppose a special assessment.

He added that in order for the assessment to be approved, it would require at least two additional public meetings.

“We’re trying to get everyone on the same page and be fair and open about the process,” Howard said.

Numerous residents have voiced concerns whether the move by the board to void the results of the March 4 meeting is appropriate.

Resident Ed Woods believes the township is going to approve the assessment no matter how much opposition it faces from residents.

“Basically their plans are still in effect if they want to continue this no matter what residents’ feelings are,” Woods said. “The township is telling us they can only raise (trash collection) rates at 10 percent a year. Ten percent a year could be a lot of money to people who can’t afford that on a fixed income.”

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