OSS board of directors has special meeting for budget updates

No further budget cuts are expected for this year for Ottawa Sandusky Seneca Joint Solid Waste District, but more cuts may be needed for 2020 and into the future.

The OSS board of directors met Thursday for a special meeting to get a budget update and to decide how to proceed with hiring a new director as Director Tim Wasserman is retiring in September.

The board agreed on a job description and agreed to advertise the position opening.

Board members also formed a selection committee to be headed by Russ Zimmerman of Sandusky County with members Michelle Ish, Ottawa County’s human resources director, and a representative from Seneca and Ottawa counties.

Regarding the district’s financial uncertainty, Wasserman said the issues are two-fold. Part of the problem stems from disagreements with Sunny Farms Landfill, main funding source, regarding the correct amount of fees to be paid. The second issue is cost increases in world recycling markets.

Wasserman gave the board a historical overview of the financial situation.

“It kind of goes all the way back to 2011,” he said.

At that time, he said the district was receiving $1.50 for each ton of waste that was put into the landfill.

“Carryover had been growing, and there was some concern it was getting too high,” he said.

The board and Sunny Farm representatives renegotiated fees. After charging no fees in 2012 and 2013, Wasserman said fees resumed in 2014.

In 2015, the Aim to be Green drop-off program started.

Also in 2015, he said OSS and Sunny Farms began to have a disagreement about the classification of waste, which lowered the fees the solid waste district received.

“We’re still trying to resolve that,” he said. The matter has been in court.

Because of the dispute, he said the district’s finances got tighter.

This year, Wasserman said the district was forced to make cuts to its programs. The advertising budget was eliminated and the newsletter was cut in half. There are no longer litter crews funded, which was a joint project with county courts.

In addition, the second round of the competitive grant program was stopped and cuts were made to the recycled products fund, school promotions and other programs.

Also, the assistant director position was not filled when it was vacated by an employee taking a different job.

“Unfortunately, these cuts will have a devastating effect on the district’s reputation,” Wasserman said.

If the situation continues as it is, he said additional cuts will be needed for 2020.

A looming problem is an expected jump in the cost of the recycling drop-off program from the current contract at $650,000 per year to an expected $1.4 million.

“That cost is more than we brought in in 2018,” Wasserman said. “That creates a real crisis for future funding. In 2022, we’ll be in a serious situation.”

Wasserman said funds could be raised by increasing landfill fees or placing a fee on residents, but board members said the fee on residents is not their top choice.

During public comment, John Lamanna, CEO of Tunnel Hill Partners, which operates Sunny Farms Landfill, updated the board on the landfill.

He said the landfill was purchased in February by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, a worldwide company.

He said many changes in personnel, equipment and systems have taken place since he was hired near the end of 2017.

“I’ve hired some of the best in the industry to run this,” he said.

He said the recent issues with odor were necessary as wells were drilled and collection systems were put in place, but most of the odor issues are past now. He said there might be minor odor as more wells are drilled to enlarge the system and work continues, but the major problems are in the past.

“We had issues, but they were temporary,” he said.

Lamanna said he also want to resolve financial issues from the past management.

“If there’s money we owe from the past, we’ll pay that when the correct amount is determined,” he said.

“I never saw a fee system so complicated,” he said.

He said he hopes the fee schedule can be renegotiated and simplified.

“We hope to get this thing back to the table and get it resolved,” he said.

Also in the public comment section, Logan Wolph of Fostoria said people from Fostoria would like to have more representation on the board or on board committees.