It’s been 7 years since the City stepped in to help bring some order – and save residents money on their trash bills – by providing citywide coordination of trash services through a single trash contract.
That was a big step and there were a lot of nervous moments during the transition but it turned out to be a great improvement in neighborhood quality of life – and it saved an average of 30% off customer’s trash bills.
Fewer days of trash sitting out on City streets and fewer trash trucks cruising through City neighborhoods is a great example where “less is more” when it comes to trash and quality of life enjoyed in the neighborhoods.
It turns out that it’s time to re-bid the citywide trash contract and the staff that is working on that bid asked for time with City Council to see if Council was ok with bidding the same base bid trash services package (5 levels of subscription service) that we have today — and then throwing on a few alternative bid options as an addendum to the bid.
The alternative bid options mix and match fewer service subscription levels in ways that could allow for more automated trash collection, which has proven to save money and better protect the health of trash collectors.
In considering possible alternatives, the members of City Council were clear – “don’t mess with resident’s trash service” – which is why the base bid is the same as it’s been for the last 7 years. But, in the spirit of being willing to “shop around” Council members said they were ok with including some alternative menu options in the addendum to the bid with the understanding that they’re under no obligation to take any of them – they’re just window shopping to make sure that Kent residents aren’t missing out on any better deals that other communities are getting.
As word spread of the possible bid alternatives, a few folks reached out to the staff and Council urging them not to consolidate the existing trash service options, particularly the bag option.
We’ve done our best to reassure those residents that no change in trash service is in the works, we’ve only put a few more options in an addendum in the bid for trash hauling companies to offer a price on, simply to make sure Kent residents are getting the best deal possible.
Doing a little extra homework and gathering information doesn’t cost anything so it seemed like the right thing to do but we certainly don’t want to give the impression that anyone at City Hall wants to “shake things up” with City trash services.
Here’s a reply I recently shared with a City resident that offers a little more insight into the trash bid:
Thank you for taking time to send us your thoughts, and we’ll be sure to mention them to Council if there’s ever any consideration for possibly changing trash service levels.
I say “if” because despite how the article came out in the paper the City’s trash bid went out with a request for prices based on the same 5 service levels that are in the current contract.
What didn’t come across in the article was that in light of the consolidation of trash companies in our area, we’re a little worried that less competition may mean higher prices.
We had great pricing from R&R in the last bid and although the company that bought them out honored R&R’s bid pricing, fewer bidders often translates into higher prices.
One way we thought we could reduce that risk was to ask for bid prices on various alternative combinations of the 5 service options that are currently available so that if the pricing comes in higher than expected, Council could talk to residents about less expensive options in order to protect against an unwanted rate hike.
I know that Council is hoping for the best which would be another round of good pricing, but in case that doesn’t happen we wanted them to have some options to talk to residents about. There is no obligation to take any options, it’s more like having some insurance in case pricing becomes problematic.
I can assure you that Council understands the sensitivity of ever considering changing trash services, so I’m sure it would only happen as a last resort, and it would only happen after a lot of public input just like yours.
So thank you for your comments and please know that the main bid keeps the bags and 30 gallon service in place, and the alternatives included a couple of different combinations of 35, 65, and 90 gallon service options.
In theory, a mild winter means a lot less snow plowing, salting and shoveling — which is certainly good news for City crews.
However, there’s a cost that comes with temperatures that bounce around the freezing mark — a rash of extra potholes and water line breaks — and that’s bad news.
This has been one of those winters — kind to the snow budget, but a “perfect storm” for water line breaks and potholes in the street.
Unfortunately we’ve had our fair share of both.
City crews are working hard to keep up but the conditions are working against them, particularly for potholes which can double in size and quantity over night if there’s a hard enough freeze following all this rain.
Regrettably, the best we can do at this time of year is back-fill the holes with temporary cold patch material and hope it holds us over until the hot mix asphalt season returns.
We recognize the safety concerns and the potential damage from hitting potholes, which is why we’ll keep working until we catch up, or winter returns and sends the crews back into the plow trucks like the good old days of 2014.
Time waits for no one — including the Mayor and City Manager — so we’re jumping head first into 2017 with a promise that no City project will get left behind.
Our flagship project in 2017 will be the new Police building, which barring any unusual weather or late inning construction surprises is still on track for a grand opening by the end of 2017.
That’s a big deal so it will be a big day for the Police Department and 28,000 of their closest friends that call Kent home and supported this really important project at the ballot box. Can’t wait.
Kent Parks and Rec is finalizing their new Community Rec Center concept plan and I hear that they’ll spend the better part of 2017 presenting and discussing it with the public in hopes of a successful Parks levy initiative in fall 2017 to fund it. If it can be funded, it looks like the new Rec Center will find a home on Middlebury Road across from the current Park Offices at Fred Fuller Park.
With the Police building project shifting into full construction mode in 2017, we should have more administrative staff time to devote to focusing on the new City Hall project. In 2016 we collected a lot of data from residents, Council, and the staff, so we’ll spend the first half of 2017 using that data to work with Council to reach consensus on where to locate the building, what City services to include in the new facility, how big to make it, and how to pay for it.
That’s sure to be a lively discussion with no easy answers for the future of another important community building. If all goes well, that should carry us into the second half of 2017 when we would look to hire an architect to start designing the new City Hall building with construction to follow in 2018 and hopefully another grand opening sometime in 2019.
In addition to our ever-vigilant focus on job creation in Kent, I think Council’s multi-cultural initiatives are likely to emerge in 2017 as some of the most meaningful and impactful community building work we’ve taken on in years. I’m proud to have an opportunity to participate in such an ambitious and timely community effort to put unity in the center of Kent’s abundant diversity.
The excellent housing study work completed in 2016 will be put to good use in 2017 as Bridget Susel, Director of Community Development, will use that data to lead a major re-write of the City’s zoning and comprehensive plans. With so much transformative redevelopment completed in Kent the last 5 years, this is a critical time to update the City’s comprehensive plan to make sure it reflects current conditions and aligns with the community’s vision for the next 5-10 years in Kent.
In 2016 the City’s new IT Manager, Gary Bishop, was busy evaluating our technology systems and defining our technology needs. Assuming that funding challenges can be resolved (no predictions on that yet), I expect to see some investments in 2017 in our public safety communication systems, including next gen 911 dispatch upgrades and (hopefully) some early acquisitions towards the conversion of City safety radios to the 800 mega-hertz format — both of which represent significant enhancements to the ability of our Fire Personnel and Police Officers to locate and respond to emergencies anywhere in our community.
We had a few long term City employees retire in 2016 and a few more are likely to follow in 2017. It’s always hard to lose quality people but I’ve been encouraged by the fresh ideas and energy that our new hires, like Melanie Baker as Public Service Director, have brought to Kent.
Times of transition are good opportunities to evaluate organizational structure and I’m looking closely at department workloads and responsibilities to make sure we’ve got the right balance to optimize and cultivate the talent we have on staff.
Thankfully we got Council approval to add 3 new firefighters in 2017 and we can’t bring them on fast enough to fill a critical shortfall and keep pace with the unprecedented pace of activity in Kent.
No chance of slowing down in 2017, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Despite the unseasonable warm weather, if we’re honest, at this time of year we know that winter weather is just one cold front away.
Looking at the forecast with back-to-back 70+ degree days for the first 2 days of November, I’m ok with a little temporary self delusion about what’s coming next.
Sadly, the other wool lined boot will eventually drop and keeping warm will be a priority — and furnaces — and the electricity that powers them, will be our best friend.
Those furnaces rely on a steady supply of power which is why the recent announcement by NOPEC that First Energy has pulled the plug at year 3 on their 9 year power supply agreement got our attention.
Nothing like standing on the brink of winter and having questions about power supply to get your attention.
The City of Kent isn’t in the power supply business but residents still turn to their City staff for just about anything utility related, including power.
So we do our best to stay in the “know,” keep in contact with NOPEC and First Energy staff, and participate in power supply discussions around our region.
About 15 years ago, Kent signed on with 200 of our favorite neighboring northeast Ohio communities to give Kent residents a chance to pool their electric purchasing power and put a little friendly pressure on power suppliers to sharpen their rate pencils and offer discounts through NOPEC‘s cooperative purchasing contracts.
It may be pennies on the kilowatt but volume based buying adds up — saving a reported $218 million for NOPEC’s members on their electric bills.
On the consumer end, power supply has been reliable and affordable — exactly what we hope for when we signed on with NOPEC.
The details for the recent fall-out are just starting to trickle out but it appears that contract issues were percolating below the surface between NOPEC and First Energy, and now we’re hearing serious phrases like “unilateral demands” and “contract termination.”
Power is big business so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that hard decisions have to be made to protect the bottom line but I was surprised by the speed in the break down of this power partnership.
We’ve had nothing but good things to say about our friends at First Energy and NOPEC so I’m not sure where things went “wrong” but at this point I suspect there’s plenty of lawyers involved and they’ll have their day in court to plead their respective cases.
In the meantime, what does that mean for all of us customers?
Apparently very little — as both parties say customers will have no disruption in power service — and that seems to be one thing they can agree on.
They disagree a bit on how power supply continuity will be ensured — with First Energy suggesting customers may want to shop around (read the First Energy FAQ) for a new supplier, while NOPEC says they’ve got their members’ back, they’ll land a new supplier for us.
Power supply will seemingly go on as NOPEC secures a new contract that will go into effect January 1, 2017 — and according to their customer notices, the consumers need not worry nor do they need to shop around on their own.
I suppose the big question will be “at what price” will the new contract kick-in at the turn of the new year but as demonstrated by this recent break-up, NOPEC is willing to play hard ball for it’s members, so we’ll look for NOPEC to do the same as they negotiate a new deal on our behalf.
In the meantime here’s NOPEC’s “Questions and Answers” for it’s members:
NOPEC Electric Update
The Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) has begun discussions with new suppliers to provide electricity for 500,000 customers in 12 Northern Ohio counties following FirstEnergy Solutions’ decision on October 28th to terminate its contract with NOPEC three years early.
There will be no disruption of service to any NOPEC Customer. NOPEC expects to have a new supplier in place in the immediate future. For more information, you can read the full press release here.
Here are answers to frequently asked questions:
1. What does this mean for me, the customer? Am I going to have electricity?
Yes. Your electricity will continue to flow. Throughout the process of finding a new supplier, there will be no disruption of service for NOPEC customers.
2. So, my electricity will definitely not be shut off?
No, your electricity will not be shut off. There will be no disruption of service for our NOPEC customers because of the changing of suppliers.
3. What should I, the customer, be doing?
You should do nothing. Your discounts through NOPEC’s current supplier will continue until January. NOPEC plans to have a sound and financially strong supplier under contract shortly, ready to deliver electricity to NOPEC customers at a favorable rate.
4. What happened? How can FirstEnergy Solutions so suddenly end this contract?
FirstEnergy Solutions informed NOPEC on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, that it was terminating its contract with NOPEC three years early, effective January 2017. The unexpected termination announcement came after FirstEnergy Solutions made a surprising demand for unilateral contract concessions from NOPEC and amid numerous news reports about the severe financial challenges FirstEnergy Solutions and its parent corporation, FirstEnergy Corp., are facing.
5. What is NOPEC doing in response to this early termination?
NOPEC is currently in discussions with new suppliers to continue to provide electricity at a discounted rate for its customers. NOPEC over the past 15 years has saved customers about $250 million and added many other values that benefit our communities and customers.
6. What did the contract with FirstEnergy Solutions provide for me, and how will it change?
On Jan. 1, 2010, FirstEnergy Solutions entered into a nine-year contract with NOPEC to supply electricity to NOPEC customers. As a result of that deal, NOPEC residential customers saved 6 percent and commercial customers saved 4 percent on the generation portion of their electric bills, compared with what they would have been paying to a utility. In addition, NOPEC has funded an additional 1 percent discount that shows up on your electric bill as “NOPEC Customer Credit.”
NOPEC is focused on getting our customers an excellent, financially strong electricity supplier and a deal that will allow them to continue to experience the many benefits NOPEC has become known for delivering to our customers.
7. Why did FirstEnergy Solutions terminate so quickly?
The FES decision to terminate the contract three years early came after NOPEC rejected a number of unilateral demands for contract concessions. There also have been published reports and press interviews with FirstEnergy Corp. executives citing severe financial challenges being faced by FES. Indeed, First Energy CEO Chuck Jones recently told Crain’s Cleveland Business “there’s blood in the water” because of FirstEnergy’s weakened financial state.
It is unfortunate that FES is facing such financial problems, but any offer FES makes to potential new customers (including you) should be evaluated in that light.
NOPEC’s primary goal is to immediately find an electricity supplier for our customers that is financially stable with a proven history of excellent service.
8. I’ve read stories about a court case with NOPEC and FirstEnergy. What’s that about?
We are in court with FES over some of the details of the termination of the contract and because we want to be sure that NOPEC’s customers and their electricity supply is protected should FES be sold or go bankrupt. This does not affect NOPEC’s ability to shop for a new supplier at a discounted rate to begin providing service when FirstEnergy Solutions ends service.
9. When NOPEC finds a new supplier to provide a discounted rate, what do I need to do to receive that rate?
You should do nothing. When NOPEC contracts with a new electricity supplier, NOPEC will send a new notice to you with an option for you to “opt-out.” If you are happy with the new rate, you do not need to do anything and your discount will automatically be applied to your bill. If you do not want to reap the benefits of NOPEC’s new rate, you can fill out the “opt-out” form and return it to NOPEC within 21 days of the mailing date. If you opt-out, you will return to the utility’s standard service offer.
For 15 years, the great majority of customers in NOPEC communities have signed up for NOPEC’s significant savings. NOPEC was started by communities like yours that recognized deregulation was an opportunity for a not-for-profit energy “aggregator” that could help communities negotiate better deals on electricity and natural gas.
It has worked for the roughly 500,000 NOPEC customers in 12 Northern Ohio counties who have saved money on their utility costs and gotten other benefits from NOPEC.
Nothing that has happened will change that.
You also may call 855-639-8159 for more information.