Athens City Council discussed adding an opt-in or opt-out program for curbside composting in the new solid waste contract for the city at its Monday meeting.

The new contract with Athens-Hocking Recycling Center has been a topic of concern in previous meetings, as it will increase fees for residents of Athens. Including composting in that contract could add additional fees to those already increased costs.

Members of Council are in favor of adding a composting service but expressed concern about increased solid waste rates, as many people have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is not a question of whether or not we’re in favor or not in favor of composting. It’s whether or not we want to be be imposing city-wide costs at this time,” Councilwoman Arian Smedley, D- 1st Ward, said. “COVID-19, as we all know, has had a huge impact on our economy, and I’m concerned about the people who have filed for or will file for unemployment.” 

Councilman Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, suggested using an opt-out program for composting, where every residential account would have a composting fee added to their bill that could be opted out of by contacting the city billing office. Crowl said the opt-out program would allow for the most composting instead of an opt-in program since residents would not have to contact the billing office in order to receive the curbside composting service.

AHRC currently provides an opt-in program for composting, which is being used by 130 to 150 people, Crowl said.

Council also passed a resolution that urges the Ohio State Legislature to adopt the recommendations of the Brennan Center for Justice’s “How to Protect the 2020 Vote from the Coronavirus.” Those recommendations include universal mail-in voting options as well as expanded early voting.

“There is a lot to be discussed by the state level to ensure that our elections and our voting rights are protected in this unusual and stressful time,” Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, said.