To the Editor:
The following is a letter that was sent to the members of Athens City Council with a copy to the administration.
This is regarding ordinances 0-60-20 and 0-61-20 currently before Athens City Council.
If passed, Ordinance 0-60-20 will obligate the city to a three-year contract with the Athens-Hocking Recycling Center for refuse, recycling and composting. Ordinance 0-61-20 will substantially raise the current rates for those services and add an additional cost for composting.
Households putting out one can of trash each week will see a 60 percent increase in their monthly bill raising it from $120 to $192 per year. Households putting out two cans of trash each week will see a 71 percent increase, raising it from $186 to $318 per year.
The cost to the residents of the city of adding composting will be $139,000 per year and is based on the optimistic assumption that 1,500 of the current 3,526 resident trash customers will use the composting service. Currently, only 95 households are paying to use curbside composting and just 300 are in the free pilot program. If the ordinance is adopted, residents will pay an additional cost of $39.48 per year for composting whether they participate in the program or not and even if they have a home composting system.
Currently, we are facing the devastating economic effects of a pandemic that have caused many Athens residents to lose their jobs and their income. Just this past week, Ohio University terminated and furloughed hundreds of employees and reduced the hours of many others. In the coming months, additional residents will likely face layoffs and furloughs as other public entities begin to make budget cuts. Some small businesses will not survive. Many residents are relying on food pantries to feed their families, including senior citizens, the disabled and those on fixed incomes.
Therefore, we urge council to take the following actions:
• Enter into further negotiations with the Athens-Hocking Recycling Center with the goal of extending the current contract for six months to a year. AHRC should do this in good faith given the overwhelming support they received from Athens citizens when they were outbid a year ago.
• Amend the proposed ordinances to eliminate the addition of composting at this point. We do not dispute the science cited to support composting. In fact, many Far East Siders and residents of Athens currently compost in their yards and have been doing so for years. But this is not the time to add this additional cost to already stretched family budgets.
• Use the upcoming year to gather additional public comment and train and educate residents about the value of composting with the intention of signing up the 1,500 residents needed to make the program viable. City of Athens neighborhood associations, Rural Action, the local Extension Service and other environmental groups could be involved in this effort.
We ask that you take these actions immediately for the economic welfare of our community and with an eye on the necessity of also protecting our environment.
Far East Neighborhood Association Board (FENA)
Jan Hodson, President