ELYRIA — The city’s sanitation services won’t be viable long-term unless sanitation rates rise in the next few years, an accounting firm hired to study the matter told City Council on Monday.
Andrew Geiser, of the accounting and business consulting firm Rea & Associates, said Elyria’s rates already are the highest in Lorain County and any increase would simply push that cost higher.
Without an increase in rates and/or a corresponding cut to services like bulk pickup or leaf collection, the increasing cost of sanitation services will result in millions of dollars in deficits, according to an audit Rea & Associates performed at the city’s request.
In order to keep city sanitation services solvent, to keep up with the increased cost of fuel and maintenance of the $6 million worth of vehicles and equipment the department and to cut down on overtime costs at the holidays, the firm recommended said the city could take a number of steps:
One, raise sanitation rates by 10 percent in both 2020 and 2021. Two, raise the rates again by 3.5 percent each year from 2022 to 2025. Three, cut bulk junk pickup and brush pickup to once a month. Four, increase preventive maintenance on equipment. Five, reconfigure all collection to span only four days per week. Six, pay off $1.4 million in investments over the next three years.
Current residential sanitation rates are $27.42 per month, and $19.20 for those with homestead exemptions, Geiser said. Elyria and Oberlin are the only two cities in Lorain County that still handle trash collection from residents in-house, Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said.
“I think we need to take a look at all the options,” she said.
Council took no action on the study. Council President Mike Lotko sent the matter to committee and said it will be brought back to Council for consideration next month.
The city also is facing additional costs after two sanitation contracts were renegotiated recently. Republic Services' dumping fee has gone up $1.95 per ton, which will cost the city an estimated $35,000 more annually. The city also renegotiated a contract with Barnes Nursey to continue accepting the city's compost at its Elyria Compost Facility on Chestnut Street.
Like many other municipalities, the city is paying to recycle glass, rather than receiving money for it.
In November 2017, City Council raised rates to $26.50 per month for 2018, $27.42 per month for 2019 and $28.38 per month in 2020. The homestead rate would go from $17.92 per month to $18.55 per month in 2018, $19.20 per month in 2019 and $19.87 monthly in 2020.
In other business
City Council also authorized Mayor Holly Brinda to enter into an agreement with TranSystems for the firm to be part of the design phase of the $4.3 million Chestnut Commons connector that will connect East Broad Street to Chestnut Commons Drive, just north of Walmart.
TranSystems will design the road, sanitary and storm sewers, lighting, pavement and other pieces of the project. The aim of the project is to lessen traffic at Chestnut Ridge Road and Chestnut Commons Drive by 20 percent.
Council also approved a conditional use permit for The Road To Hope to renovate a former church at 600 Delaware Ave. — most recently home to One Body in Christ Ministries — into a 16-room recovery housing center.
Jeff Kamms, executive director of Road to Hope, previously said the house will be home to 14 clients and two house managers. All clients will be in the last phase of their treatment programs, will be employed and will have completed the initial stages of their recovery, he said Monday.
The facility will be staffed 24/7. Residents will work their 90- to 120-day recovery programs with counselors from mental health and recovery organizations in the county.
In addition, Council approved a plan to advertise for bids to do up to $228,000 worth of improvements to East Park, including adding paved and gravel trails, a restroom and new shelter to the southern entrance off Prospect Street. The improvements will be paid for with Issue 6 money designated for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Finally, Council approved the sale of two fire department vehicles — a 2002 15-passenger van and a 1985 fire truck — that are no longer fit for city use; amended an Enterprise Zone agreement with Dura-Line to fix a mathematical error; and approved the payment of a $1,000 moral claim to Marco Parrilla, after a city mowing crew struck and damaged his wheeled stump grinder.