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Hudson -- Kent, Stow and Ravenna have purchased an asphalt recycler which enables them to reprocess asphalt so it can be used again as hot mix after it's been ground up in the process of road maintenance.
It's the first shared purchase which a regional coalition of about 10 to 12 communities has been discussing and working to find ways to share.
"You're the guinea pigs," Streetsboro Mayor Glenn Broska told Ravenna Service Director Kelly Engelhart during a meeting of officials representing about 10 communities Jan. 10 at Hudson Public Library.
The asphalt recycler is based in Kent, but Kent, Stow and Ravenna will share it with one another for free since they shared the $129,000 cost of purchasing it and plan to rent it out to other communities in the regional coalition.
Engelhart said Kent is producing recycled asphalt with the machine.
"But there are still tweaks needed," she added. "It's a skill set that staff have to learn, just like putting asphalt down is a skill set."
Engelhart said the Kent Service Department is working to fine tune the recycling process and test the product.
"Once we have it and put [the asphalt] down and see it's successful in our communities [of Stow, Kent and Ravenna], then we can share it with other communities," she said.
Broska said he's ready to recycle once the machine is fine tuned.
"We're saving our grindings right now," he said. "We're in the process of buying a hot box so we'll have the ability to have someone use our hotbox to transfer asphalt."
Kent Engineer Gene Roberts said a hot box is a heated trailer used to transport hot mix asphalt from one place to another. Typically, he said they hold 1 yard of asphalt.
Stow Service Director Mike Miller said the recycler enables cities to produce hot mix during the winter which can't be done any other way.
Hot mix, Roberts explained, is better for patching roads because once it cools and cures it remains more malleable than cold patch asphalt, which can be torn up quickly during the winter by ice and snow plows.
Once Stow, Kent and Ravenna have perfected the process of recycling, Engelhart said the cities will have to decide on rental rates other logistical issues for sharing the machinery with more communities.
"The three communities investing will want to make sure their needs are met first," she said. "Everybody's going to be wanting to fill potholes on the nice, sunny 60-degree days."
Hudson Mayor Bill Currin said demand will determine how well having one asphalt recycling shared the entire group will work.
"We may not find it's as bad as we anticipate," he added.
If demand for the asphalt recycler becomes too great to share among a large number of communities, Broska said it may be necessary for a second purchase, perhaps shared by Streetsboro, Aurora, Mantua and Shalersville.
Either way, Broska said the group can learn from the experience of sharing the recycler, the first shared purchase of major equipment among members of the group, and apply the lessons learned to similar items and even more complex items.
During the Jan. 10 meeting, the group's fifth since last January, Tallmadge Director of Administration Dr. Tom Pascarella was elected chair of the group by a unanimous vote.
He was nominated for the position by Hudson Public Works Director Frank Comeriato, who said Pascarella "has a significant amount of experience and success in his endeavors."
A committee was formed to guide the group in establishing a regional mutual aid agreement for public services (as opposed to safety services), and a second committee was formed to work toward creating more regional cooperation through shared services, equipment and personnel.
A regional mutual aid agreement has been adopted by several of the group's participants and is likely to come before other City Councils soon. Legislation was introduced in Streetsboro Jan. 14.
A goal was set to have a regional mutual aid agreement in place in all the participating communities by the end of 2013.
Engelhart, a member of the committee working on the mutual aid agreement, said one challenge will be making sure all the legislation is consistent among the communities.
The committee working on shared services, equipment and personnel will have to dig into the operations of the participating cities and townships to determine how to reconcile differing rules, regulations, operating procedures, pay rates for employees, union contracts and more.
For each piece of shared equipment, it will have to determine the cost of operation and the specific skill sets necessary to use different machines.
The next meeting is set for April 11 in Kent.