August 28, 2014

Medina
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Medina County officials at odds with operators of recycling plant

Medina County officials are charging that the operator of the county’s recycling center isn’t providing documents needed to plan for the future of the facility.

County Administrator Chris Jakab said the refusal shows relations with the Cleveland-based Envision Waste Services have deteriorated.

“I think the resistance is unnecessary, and it’s reflective of a dysfunctional working relationship that I had thought was improving,” he said. “I guess it isn’t.”

The county’s contract with Envision expires in January and officials are preparing to seek bids to operate the Central Processing Facility in Westfield Township.

It’s also possible that the county could take over operating the plant.

The county’s solid waste plan approved by the state must be updated by year’s end. The county hired Westerville-based GT Environmental to help draft a plan for how the facility should operate and what services potential operators will be asked to bid on.

To help draft a request for proposals, county Sanitary Engineer Amy Lyon-Galvin said she requested documents on March 26 that are specifically outlined in the contract with Envision: “equipment replacement schedules; all operating and maintenance costs, including utility cost and … staffing levels (by title) and equipment replacement or repair activities, including parts and labor.”

After a few followups, Lyon-Galvin said Envision CEO Steven Viny told her he would have the reports April 30.

Instead, she said she received a letter saying Envision didn’t have to provide the documents.

“We ran this past our legal counsel and they advise us that while the contract requires us to maintain these records, there is no express requirement that they be copied and turned over to the county,” Viny wrote in the letter.

Viny also questioned the county’s motives in making the request.

“This information contains trade secret information, and given the fact that the county may be competitive bidders to us, the timing of this request is questionable.

“To provide this information to a competitor would be highly damaging to Envision and our expectation of a fair and level playing field in the rebid.”

In an interview with The Gazette, Viny said the request for the documents was unprecedented.

“When Amy requested that information, it seemed odd because this is information that has never been requested in the 21 years of us operating the facility. This is the very first time,” he said. “We are following our legal counsel’s guidance.

“Any connotation that we’re not complying with the county could not be further from the truth.”

Viny blamed county officials for the strained relationship.

“If there’s a deterioration of our relationship, it’s not coming from my end,” he said. “I couldn’t be more supportive of Medina County. At the end of the day, I’m trying to be protective of the county and its residents and our company, too.”

But county Commissioner Stephen D. Hambley said Viny’s refusal to provide the documents is a breach of contract.

Hambley said the company’s failure to comply with the contract, which requires Envision to provide the county with monthly reports within 10 days of the end of each month, including specifically the information Lyon-Galvin requested, “essentially nullifies the idea of them continuing to operate the facility.”

County Commissioner Adam Friedrick agreed the county needs the information and the company is required to provide it.

“The need is so we can make the request for proposal as complete as possible,” he said. “At least at this point, there’s a disagreement on how the contract reads and we’re going to try to figure that out.”

In addition to the document request, county officials said Envision is impeding their plans to run a trial with Medina-based Vexor Technology that could divert more solid waste from the landfills and potentially save the county and the facility money.

Lyon-Galvin said Vexor would take some of Envision’s unrecycled solid waste for use as an ingredient in “engineered fuel” for 45 days, at a reduced cost to the facility of $15 per ton.

If the all parties like the results, Vexor would take up to 40,000 tons a year from the processing facility, keeping it from landfills and possibly reducing operation costs at the facility.

Lyon-Galvin said the county is within its rights to ask Envision to participate in the experiment with Vexor.

Viny said he is being cautious for good reason — if the test produces problems, his company could be legally liable.

“It’s in the contract that we have to protect the county from all environmental liability, and if there is any litigation, we have to pay for ours and the county’s legal fees,” he said. “Our neck is on the chopping block, so we have no choice but to look at this with a very careful eye.”

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.