The Mahoning County Solid Waste Policy Committee voted to reduce county recycling division funding for local leaf pickup from $76,000 to $10,000 this fall to help balance the recycling division budget.
Monday’s vote means the division no longer will fund curbside leaf collections, but will support central drop-off sites in each community where residents may deposit their leaves in compostable bags for transport to a composting facility.
Boardman and Youngs-town, however, have decided to continue curbside pickup of leaves for composting at their expense.
Residents will have to purchase their own compostable bags, which are available in major retail home-improvement stores.
With the cutback, this year’s leaf-collection program will be similar to the Christmas-tree recycling program in which residents deposit their trees after Christmas at central drop-off sites, and the trees later become fish habitat in local lakes, explained Lou Vega, recycling division director.
Twice a week for four weeks between mid-October and mid- November, day-reporting inmates from the county sheriff’s office will provide free labor to load the leaves at the central- collection sites into a 2-ton dump truck from the county engineer’s office for delivery to the company that will be selected to compost the leaves, Vega told the board.
Vega said he expects 10 Mahoning County communities to participate in the leaf-collection program this fall, the same number as last year.
Taking into account the reduction in its leaf-pickup budget, Jim Jerek, recycling division business manager, projected the division will finish the year with a $5,000 surplus to be carried over into 2014.
With its budget constrained by the closing of the Central Waste landfill in Smith Township last year, the recycling division expects to have revenues of $2.3 million and expenditures of about $2.9 million this year, making up the difference using $600,000 in carry-over from 2012 into 2013.
Most of the recycling division’s income is derived from dumping fees it collects from the county’s two remaining active landfills, Carbon-Limestone in Poland and the Mahoning Landfill in Springfield Township.
Several township trustees told the committee they want the recycling division to keep funding for landfill inspections and well- water testing near active and closed landfills as a high budgetary priority for the division.
The recycling division’s 2013 allocation to the health department’s inspection and testing program is $390,000.
“The most-important thing to the trustees is the safety of those landfill operations and of those at most risk, which are the people that surround them,” said David Mannion, Smith Township trustee.
The committee learned the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has approved the county’s 15-year solid-waste management plan, which sets recycling division priorities and is updated every five years.
OEPA is asking the committee for a written report updating its priorities, activities and budget within 45 days, Christopher Germain, an OEPA solid-waste program planner, told the committee.
In February, the seven-member committee had approved the plan, which keeps landfill dumping fees at $1.50 per ton for waste originating in Mahoning County or out of state and $3 a ton for waste originating within Ohio, but outside Mahoning County.