- Grove City, Pennsylvania

July 19, 2013

Trash talk leads to panel

Fact-finding committee to form Aug. 6

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — Slippery Rock council members on Tuesday agreed to create a fact-finding committee to further study the issues surrounding the borough's bulk trash debate, but not before hearing more concerns from a standing-room only crowd.

"There's some very serious, deep matters," said landlord Frank Monteleone, adding several council members should resign because people have lost faith and trust in them.

A "lot of damage" has been done and people in other parts of the country following this story can't believe what has happened in Slippery Rock, and resigning is the right thing to do, he said, declining to identify which councilors should step down.

Monteleone was referring to the decision council made in September -- when it approved a three-year garbage contract with Tri-County Industries --- to move the spring bulk trash pickup date from May to March, which took effect this year.

Council has said they changed the date for several reasons, including: the amount of bulk trash put out in May made the town look messy during graduation week; some apartment complexes with private garbage contracts added their bulk trash to the borough's; and it keeps costs down.

The change continues to be disputed, mainly by landlords including Monteleone, and council member Itzi Meztli, who have both been outspoken at recent council meetings.

Meztli on June 25 held a public town hall meeting at the borough building to discuss the matter, and he hosted it as a resident, saying it went well, with more than 50 people attending, all of them against the March date.

Resident Mike DeVault on Tuesday criticized council for not listening to the taxpayers' problems and announced he's running as a write-in candidate on the fall ballot for council.

"You're an elected official. You're supposed to listen to the people," he said.

Monteleone's attorney, Larry Rogers, said while the fact-finding committee shows some progress, council should still be willing to renegotiate with Tri-County on changing the pickup date.

The borough could be in big trouble if this "snafu" leads to trash sitting out that attracts rats or causes accidents, creating danger to residents' health, safety and welfare, Rogers said.

Resident Thomas Holmes, who was applauded by the crowd after saying he picks up litter whenever he sees it, said some Slippery Rock University students had no choice but to leave their bulk trash out when they moved this May, some of it still around when the judges came in mid-June for Slippery Rock in Bloom.

"It's like stabbing Slippery Rock in Bloom in the back," he said of the non-profit group that beautifies the town and was recently judged for America in Bloom, a national contest.

When council was ready to discuss the fact-finding committee, Meztli was upset that he didn't know it would be on the agenda, and borough solicitor Neva Stanger said she proposed the idea.

The committee will study issues concerning solid waste, recycling and bulk pickup and report its findings to council, Council Vice President Christy Tichy said.

The group can include up to 15 people, and candidates must submit their names to borough administrator Lucinda Lipko or any council member. Council will appoint committee members at its Aug. 6 meeting.

But the borough made a "major mistake" in changing the pickup date, the public has spoken and this committee isn't needed, Meztli said.

The committee would be more diverse than the town hall meeting, or even those who attend council meetings, Tichy said.

"I think it could be very useful," Mayor Ken Harris said of more facts that need to be gathered regarding garbage collection, including whether the contract needs to be reopened to change the date.

The committee will consist of: one council member; one representative from Slippery Rock Development who isn't on council; borough residents and landlords, with the numbers of landlords not exceeding the number of residents; borough business owners; and Slippery Rock University administrators and/or students.

Council approved the formation of the committee with Meztli voting against it. Council President Dave Miller was absent. They agreed to appoint Tichy as the council representative.

Business owner, resident and landlord Sonya Lenz gave one of the last comments about bulk trash at the end of the meeting, pointing out that everyone makes mistakes, but that's OK.

"Sometimes we make mistakes. Move on. Change it back to May," she said.

Published July 6, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.