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No single trash hauler in Salem … for now

SALEM – There won’t be a single hauler trash program in Salem at this time, per city council Tuesday.

City council members voted 5-2 against sending a proposed contract to the law director for review so bids could be sought, ending for now the idea supported by Mayor John Berlin and Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst.

Only Councilmen Steve Faber and Andrew Null voted in favor of the ordinance. Null said previously that seeking bids would be the only way to find out for sure what pricing would be and what services would be provided to residents for that pricing. He saw no harm in getting the numbers, then deciding whether to go forward.

Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey and Councilmen Ron Zellers, Dennis Plegge, Sal Salvino and Roy Paparodis all voted against it.

At previous meetings, both Salvino and Dickey expressed their opposition to a single hauler program, in part due to what people were telling them – they wanted a choice in their trash hauler and didn’t want the government telling them what to do. Paparodis had been concerned about the lack of competition and the possible adverse affect on a smaller, local trash company.

The decision goes against the findings of a survey of residents, asking whether they supported the idea of a single hauler trash program.

When the findings were announced one year ago this month, the majority wanted the program.

Out of 1,453 responses returned, 878 said yes to the single hauler trash program, 535 said no and 60 surveys were returned blank. The surveys had been included with water and sewer bills for city residents last year.

Residents who favored the idea and attended a meeting of the Committee of the Whole in July told council members not to dismiss the findings of the survey.

The idea has been debated back and fourth for more than four years, but no bids have ever been sought to gauge the cost. A single hauler trash program would have allowed the city to contract with one company to provide residential trash pickup in Salem. The program would not include commercial pickup. One of the required services to be included in the price would have been curbside recycling.

Before council voted, both Salvino and Null questioned whether they had already voted on the issue in July, but Dickey said council voted to send it to Committee of the Whole, which then voted in July to send it back to council for a decision on forwarding a proposed contract to the law director.

After the meeting, Berlin said he’s pretty much bound by whatever council decides and there appeared to be some apprehension on their part regarding a single hauler program. He said he’s sure this will come up again down the road.

Both he and Kenst had fought for the single hauler program as a way to increase recycling by making it easier for residents to recycle with curbside recycling. They also wanted to reduce the number of heavy trucks on city streets, to keep the streets from deteriorating.

Berlin may ask council to add a requirement on garbage haulers in the city to provide their prices to the city once a year, so people have an idea of what others are being charged.

He pointed out that council previously did amend the ordinance for garbage haulers to require they offer curbside recycling, but the ordinance didn’t say anything about price.

“There’s something wrong with the way the ordinance is written that I’d like to correct,” he said.

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