Last week, local leaders traveled to Columbus to support legislation seeking to clean up garbage collection laws.
Ashtabula City Manager Jim Timonere and Ashtabula County Auditor Roger Corlett testified during a committee hearing at the Ohio Statehouse on House Bill (HB) 323, legislation sponsored by state Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, to correct an oversight from a bill passed last year.
The legislation passed last year overturned waste disposal collection procedures that had been in place for years — allowing municipalities to have unpaid bills assessed on property taxes. But changes to state law had added wording allowing only municipalities in “chartered counties” to do that. HB 323 seeks to restore the previous common practice that opened it to all municipalities.
“HB 323 is absolutely essential for Ashtabula,” Patterson said Friday. “Both City Manager Timonere and County Auditor Corlett recognized that, which is why they gave up a day on their schedules to testify in Columbus.”
Timonere said Friday that Ashtabula’s sanitation department is one of few municipal rubbish collection services left in Ohio.
“There are only two chartered counties in the state, making this practice unfair to those of us who are not,” he said. “We certify between $225,000 and $250,000 per year to the county auditor and this, in essence, is how we collect delinquent accounts.”
If the city was not able to do that, it would need to increase its fees, penalizing those who pay, he said.
“The real issue is why should a municipality not in a chartered county be treated differently than one that is? Why should they have this tool at their disposal and not us?” Timonere said. “We can not shut garbage collection off for non-payment.”
Corlett said Friday everything was fine under the previous system and he wants to see the garbage collection law cleaned up.
Most of Ashtabula’s residential neighborhoods are older, with houses close to each other. Cutting off garbage collection is not an option as it would punish the whole neighborhood, he said.
“The non-paying residents would still haul their garbage to the tree lawn, where it would accumulate until animals tore the bags open and spread the refuse through the streets,” he said. “No responsible city government would let that happen.”
HB 323 will reflect current law to include all Ohio counties, Patterson said.