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Erie Co. sues Huron County over trash contract, 'non-performance'

Cary Ashby • Apr 3, 2018 at 6:32 PM

Erie County has sued Huron County over their agreement about trash disposal. 

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Erie County Common Pleas Court. Prosecutors, in the lawsuit, said that Erie County “has faithfully and correctly performed its duties and obligations under the ‘solid waste agreement’ from its inception through March 31, 2018, successfully transporting” slightly more than 123.1 million tons of “Huron County solid waste from Huron County to the Erie County landfill … for disposal with no material disruptions.”

Erie County officials, in a prepared statement, said the two counties “enjoyed the benefits of a successful agreement” for more than eight years, but Huron County ended that arrangement “with minimal notice.”

“Despite numerous occurrences of underprovision of its obligations by defendant Huron County, Erie County neither threatened to, attempted to, nor did take any actions that could be reasonably interpreted to indicate any intention to, or action, to terminate the ‘solid waste agreement’,” according to the lawsuit.

The Huron County commissioners, which ended the agreement as of Sunday, have a different perspective.

“We did just end it last week. … However, we did have discussions with Erie County, letting them know we were unhappy with the service before that,” Commissioner Terry Boose told the Reflector earlier.

After Erie County “came back with a contract with a different hauler at a higher price,” Boose said “we went out and looked for a different contract because (it was cheaper) and things weren’t getting done.”

According to the Erie County statement, “our previous contract had an agreed upon rate of $26.48 per ton for disposal this year and $26.58 per ton in 2019.” Local commissioners have confirmed they have a “short-term contract” with Rumpke Waste, a private waste contractor in Richland County, paying $28 a ton.

Boose has said Huron and Erie counties have discussed the issue of solid-waste disposal “for the past two months at least.”

He could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.

Huron County Prosecutor James Joel Sitterly, in a March 27 letter to the Erie County commissioners informing them that the solid-waste agreement was being terminated, said “there have been numerous issues of non-performance by your contracted waste hauler, CEI” since late 2017. He went on to say “the numerous issues of non-performance by your contracted waste hauler have neither been addressed nor remedied, proximately causing Huron County to be in violation of Ohio EPA regulations relative to its transfer station.”

“Furthermore, it is Huron County’s understanding that CEI has requested that it be relieved of its obligations under the contract between Erie County and CEI, which Erie County has granted. While Huron County is aware of Erie County’s attempt to obtain a new trash hauler, Huron County is unwilling to accept Erie County’s proposed amendment to the rates under the agreement,” Sitterly wrote.

Commissioner Skip Wilde has called the situation “very complicated,” but ultimately “we said we’d had enough.”

“They were getting a new hauler and we decided we were looking at other bids. It was an issue of non-performance. Things were to be done and they didn’t happen,” he said.

When called Tuesday about the lawsuit, Wilde said “I can’t comment on that” and cited the potential litigation.

“We need the transfer station emptied and cleaned every night and that wasn’t happening,” Boose said Monday. 

“We just wanted to get their attention that this is a serious matter for us,” he added.

“I think we did that. … If they want to do that (get a contract together) in the very near future, they can sharpen their pencils and we can figure it out. But we had to do what was best for our county, for Huron County. I understand Erie County is taking a hit, but we’re here to look out for the Huron County residents and what’s best for our county. That’s our job.”

Erie County, in the lawsuit, is seeking “compensatory damages in an amount necessary to compensate (for) its losses due to the loss of revenue that would have been generated under the ‘solid waste agreement.’” The lawsuit states that the amount is “uncertain,” but could exceed $25,000 “plus its reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”

Assistant Prosecutor Mark Smith, who is handling the lawsuit for Erie County, failed to a return a request for an interview Tuesday.

Pete Daniel, administrator for the Erie County commissioners, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Staff writer Zoe Greszler contributed to this story.

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