Franklin Township residents will see their leaves collected again this fall thanks to a newly signed — and more expensive — agreement between the township trustees and the county recycling center.
Under the deal, the county will continue to handle the township’s recycling and leaf pickup programs without interruption, but it will cost residential property owners nearly $30 a year more than it did under the old contract, for a new total of about $117 per year.
“It is just a clarification of the 2019 leaf collection. Otherwise, the 2022 agreement is in effect,” Portage County Recycling Director Dawn Collins said.
But the agreement resolves a dispute that has been ongoing since late last year over a convoluted contract. In December, the township even considered suing the county.
Under their former contract from 2019, Franklin Township paid the county for both recycling and leaf pickup programs, but the county did not collect the leaves. Instead, the county would refund the township a portion of its payment so that the township could pay its own leaf-collecting contractor.
Specifically, the county collected $87.96 annually from township homeowners. In return, Solid Waste picked up their recycling at the curb while funneling a portion of the fees back to the township, known as the “leaf rebate.”
The reimbursement check allowed Franklin Township to pay ABC Landscaping, which has a five-year contract with the township for leaf pickup. The terms of that contract had the township paying ABC $100,000 for 2021-2024 and $110,000 for 2025 and 2026.
This arrangement worked fine until last year, when Collins took over as director of the Portage County Solid Waste Management District and set out to rescue the agency from financial distress. With the approval of county commissioners, Collins voided all curbside recycling contracts in an effort to standardize the terms of recycling contracts with municipalities countywide.
The move left Franklin Township wondering how to meet the terms of its own contract with ABC Landscaping. The township had neither the procedures nor paperwork in place to run its own leaf pickup program, Franklin Fiscal Officer Lise Russell said.
“We could have set it up, but it would take a minimum of six months, if not a full year,” she said. “If we had opted to do that instead of holding the county accountable for the rest of their contract, we would have lost a year of collection.”
Fearing a possible breach of contract lawsuit from ABC Landscaping, Franklin Township trustees dug in, demanding that the county continue to collect and rebate funds for leaf collection.
Now trustees and the recycling center have reached a deal, but at a cost.
Moving forward, township residents will see two assessments on their property tax bills: recycling for $66 a year ($5.50 a month for biweekly pickup, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2022, and effective to July 1, 2023), and leaf pickup for $51.25 a year (two pickups, both in the late fall), for a total price hike of $29.29 a year versus the old contract.
The leaf pickup fee is effective Jan. 1, 2023, through Dec. 31, 2024, Russell said. Beginning in 2025, the township will take sole responsibility for the leaf pickup collections, handling the paperwork and procedures itself.
Not knowing what to expect when he walked into the county prosecutor’s office for a mediation session to hammer out the new agreement, Township Trustee Glenn Russell said he was glad the matter was resolved so quickly and amicably.
“I think the county auditor [Janet Esposito] just didn’t like how the contract was written,” he said. “I’m not sure why it took so many steps to get to this point.”