Ravenna approved a $3 per month increase for curbside recycling service

Lyndsey Brennan/The Portager

Ravenna City Council approved a rate increase for curbside recycling collection on Monday night, satisfying a request from Portage County’s struggling recycling center to standardize the county’s rates at $5.50 per residence per month.

Ravenna residents will also continue to pay a $3 per month yard waste collection fee, which was added to their $2.50 bill for recycling pickup. The updated contract extends only to Dec. 31 and includes recycling collection twice a month.

The agreement is retroactive to Oct. 1, and residents will see the price change on their next bill.

City leaders, including Council President Andrew Kluge, said they were obliging a request from the Portage County Solid Waste Management District, which had warned that service could be disrupted if the center could not hit its financial targets.

Kluge said residents want the convenience of curbside pickup, but private haulers were either more expensive or unable to provide service to Ravenna.

Council Member Rob Kairis cast the only vote against raising rates, pointing repeatedly to a recycling contract amendment that council approved in July 2018. This amendment updated the city’s 2014 recycling contract and set a monthly cost to residents of $2.50 per unit for the first year, with potential price modifications thereafter. 

While Kairis claims this contract is good until June 30, 2023, the other council members and city staff say he’s mistaken. In fact, the 2014 contract expired in 2019, Kluge and others said, and the city has been paying for and receiving recycling services without any contractual basis.

Somehow, no one noticed the contract had lapsed.

Dawn Collins, the acting director of Solid Waste, and Ravenna Law Director Frank Cimino could not be reached for comment.

Kairis wants to know how city council could be presented Monday with an amendment to a nonexistent contract. Details, he said, are going by the wayside as Ravenna’s administration tries “to ram this thing through.”

“We need a new contract, not an amendment,” Kairis said. “You can’t amend a contract that doesn’t exist.”

Kairis also opposes the price increase generally, saying he is trying to save Ravenna residents a few dollars.

Ravenna’s update comes one week after the Solid Waste Management District announced it would cancel all of its curbside recycling contracts on Dec. 31 and offer each jurisdiction a standard rate: $5.50 per residence per month, with all contracts starting and ending at the same fixed intervals. 

This sweeping maneuver, Collins said last week, would dig Solid Waste out of a financial crisis years in the making. Drivers have fled the agency, blaming the low wages, overwork, poor management under the previous director, and unreliable trucks. Faced with staffing shortages and lack of funding, the recycling center has switched to twice-monthly pickup instead of weekly and lobbied cities and townships to accept high rates. 

Collins said she’s hopeful all the jurisdictions will continue their curbside service.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.