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WARREN Officials discuss waste-facility flap

By Denise Dick

Friday, October 11, 2002

Starting a municipal transfer station would cost about $3 million, a city official said.
WARREN -- There's a lot of discussion but no decision regarding proposed city legislation to prevent a collection facility, and to make the city environmental services department self-sufficient.
City council's health and welfare committee and members of the administration met Thursday to hash out an ordinance that caused a controversy.
After Geauga-Trumbull Solid Waste District announced plans to build an office building and household hazardous-waste collection site on Enterprise Drive, near where the LaBrae School District is building a new school, city Councilmen James "Doc" Pugh, D-6th, and Robert Holmes III, D-4th, sponsored legislation they hoped would prohibit such facilities as well as prevent expansion of other waste-collection facilities, landfills or transfer stations in the city.
The legislation caused a stir, with the administration and the environmental-services department contending it would shut down the department and hamper operations of the water and water-pollution control departments if it passed.
Pugh and Holmes then agreed to table the ordinance and amend it with the input of department heads. Pugh says he wants to make the environmental-services department independent.
Current contract
The city has a contract with Warren Recycling Inc. for trash transfer through 2004.
Terry Nicopolis, environmental-services superintendent, said it would cost about $3 million to start a municipal transfer station, including environmental studies, land, building construction, equipment, fuel and personnel.
"It's just that we don't have the money," Nicopolis said.
The city's contract with Warren Recycling also makes a municipal operation redundant, Nicopolis said.
"I can't see the city doing something a private company is already doing," he said.
Pugh pointed out that the company's operating permit, issued by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, expires at the end of this year.
"If they don't get a permit for 2003, what are we going to do?" Pugh asked. "If they shut down for whatever reason, what is our backup plan?"
Robert Pinti, deputy city health commissioner, said that if the OEPA were to deny the permit, the company could appeal and may be able to operate during the appeal process.
Working on backup
Fred Harris, city safety-service director, said the city has been working on a contingency plan, but it's not going to be a quick fix.
"There are other plans we're working on, and I don't want to divulge at this time," Harris said.
That didn't sit well with some council members.
"With all due respect, Mr. Director, that's an unacceptable answer to me," said Councilman Gary Fonce, D-at large.
Whatever plans are made, it's going to be council that has to answer to the public for it, Fonce said.
Harris said he meant that no plan is in place, but the city is working on the problem.
Fonce said he doesn't think the city should be opening a business such as a transfer station. He pointed to other endeavors tried by the city, such as the Avalon South Golf Course and a parking garage, that haven't been successful.
"I do not feel any government should be going into a private business venture," Fonce said.
Pugh said after the meeting that he still thinks a municipal transfer station is feasible. The city pays about $1 million per year to Warren Recycling to use its transfer station, he said.