BURNS TWP. — Sixty to 80 residents packed a public hearing Monday in the Burns Township Hall to express their views, mostly negative, on whether the township board should pursue a plan to use a single trash hauler, to be paid by a township-wide special assessment.
Board members said 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.
Many of the dozens of people who spoke during the 90-minute hearing said they opposed the plan, which is still in preliminary stages.
“What the board is doing is forcing all of us to purchase something we don’t want to buy,” resident Jack Burnell said, eliciting applause from the audience. “What I do with my garbage is my business.”
The panel could set a second public hearing at its meeting in April, to be followed by a board vote on the assessment. Monday’s hearing came after a months-long investigation by board members into whether the township should switch to single trash hauler.
The panel recently opened bids on a three-year contract, receiving responses from two haulers, Waste Management in Venice Township and Owosso-based Specialty Salvage.
“The board has not selected a service provider yet, and we haven’t even determined if we’re going to have a special assessment,” Township Supervisor Bradley Howard said, adding the purpose of the hearings was to give board members a chance to hear what residents had to say.
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.
Many residents said they preferred the “free enterprise” system that’s in place, where each household individually negotiates a price with a trash hauler of their choice.
“The biggest thing is, we choose a local company,” resident Mary Osborne said. “We want to keep money in our community rather than pay a big conglomerate. I think this is not a good idea. I think we should be able to choose our own garbage service.”
Some residents said they favor small government, and don’t want the township to make it bigger by taking over garbage collection.
Others said many wouldn’t be able to afford the extra cost.
“One of the things that bothers me is, if you can’t pay, there could be a lien on your property,” resident Dick Morehead said. “A lof of people live on fixed incomes. They could lose their homes.”
Howard said residents could formally object to the assessment by putting their disapproval in writing. If homeowners representing 20 percent of all the land in the township object, then in order for the township to move forward landowners representing 50 percent of all land would have to support the assessment in writing.
During the meeting, residents circulated pads of paper, provided at their request by Clerk Shirley Riley, to sign for or against the assessment.
Howard said this morning that so many signatures were turned in, township officials will have to tally them to determine if the 20 percent land threshhold was met before proceeding with a second public hearing.
Trustee Bill Bowers said recycling prompted him to introduce the idea of contracting with a single trash-hauler.
“It was my idea,” Bowers said. “I believe in recycling. We’ve got to stop putting it in our landfills… We’ve got to start cleaning up the planet. Our future generations need us to do this.”