The City of Saline is one of several Washtenaw County communities that will consider joining a regional authority to better manage recycling, trash hauling and other solid waste issues.
With recycling costs on the rise, communities are talking about partnering to provide better service, allow residents to recycle more, and allow residents to recycle better.
Saline City Council learned more about the idea at a work session Monday evening. Council was joined by Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner Evan Pratt, Washtenaw County Public Works Manager Theo Eggermont, and Robert Davis, an attorney who helped a successful waste management authority in Oakland County.
Saline has been represented by DPW Director Jeff Fordice as Washtenaw County communities have talked about ways to collaborate. Other participating communities include the cities of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Dexter and the townships of Pittsfield, Scio, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
Several western Washtenaw communities are already participating in a regional program.
York, Saline and Lodi Township officials have declined opportunities to participate in a new authority.
In the coming weeks, communities like Saline will decide whether or not they wish to join the coalition, tentatively called the Washtenaw Regional Resource Management Authority.
“Two thirds of the county is interested. Communities want to improve the quantity and quality of recycling,” Eggermont told council.
An authority could help provide better service, Eggermont said, because of economies of scale. Having an authority would allow for smarter routes and should reduce duplication in education efforts.
The goal is to move closer to zero waste and attract a private materials recovery facility to the area.
Davis told council there are firms that will be interested in bidding to serve a Washtenaw recycling market. He said this was the most densely populated regions in the state without a regional solid waste authority.
The ask is $5,000 from each community. The county will match each $5,000 contribution. Pratt said while the county is playing a role in bringing communities together, it would would not have a seat on the authority. Davis said each community represented on the authority would have one vote.
Communities like Saline could see a vote on joining the authority this spring but it may take years before the authority is functional, Davis told council.
In the meantime, Fordice and the city are negotiating a new contract with Waste Management. The current contract expires this summer. Fordice said the contract is being negotiated with the the authority in mind. He said any contract will likely have a basic out clause should the authority be ready to negotiate a new contract.
Mayor Brian Marl said city council will discuss the issue at its Feb. 11 meeting. If there is consensus to join the authority, the city will have staff and legal counsel review some of the finer points of joining the authority.