Carbon County officials are concerned about the future of the recycling program in the county.

During the county commissioners' meeting Thursday, the board voted to give the solid waste department a $20,000 loan to help keep it operational.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, said that right now the county is in a major financial dilemma with the program because state and federal funding that used to cover a significant portion of the solid waste budget has been cut.

"How long do we keep going?" Nothstein asked, noting that the trucks they have for the program all have over 200,000 miles on them and are really showing their age.

Commissioner William O'Gurek added that in addition to losing the funding for the program, another factor that is causing a strain on the county is the sale of commodities collected through recycling. The county used to receive enough from the sale of the paper, glass, aluminum and cardboard recyclables to cover a significant portion of the program's expenses. But now, the cost is lower and things like glass are basically given away rather than sold.

O'Gurek noted that this is the third year the department has been operating in the red and it is projected that the deficit will be around $127,000. To help keep the recycling program afloat which includes the big blue bins in some municipalities that do not have recycling programs the county has given nearly $100,000 over the last two years.

"We're at a critical stage with solid waste and decisions will have to be made on if we will continue operating the programs that are running that badly in the red," O'Gurek said.

Nothstein said that he is concerned if the county eliminates the recycling program, then illegal dumping and littering will get significantly worse.

"It's a major, major issue and it's not getting any better," Nothstein said of both the program's financial problem and the illegal dumping occurring in the county.

"What happens if we do away with the program, then we have other problems. Where do we draw the line?"

In other matters, the commissioners and residents discussed various county-related topics.

Pat Handwerk of the Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce updated the board on the Best of the Road contest.

Teams from the contest visited Jim Thorpe this past weekend and Handwerk said it went very well.

She thanked everyone for their cooperation and help with getting Jim Thorpe spruced up for the visit and noted that they have heard from people from Brazil, France and Italy, who told them that they saw Jim Thorpe on the Internet.

Handwerk said that a group of local individuals involved with the trip would like to continue to keep the entrances into Jim Thorpe beautiful by forming a Keep Carbon County and Jim Thorpe Beautiful group. The group would work with a landscape architect to create a design so they could continually landscape throughout the seasons. The landscaping would then be completed by volunteers through donations.

Handwerk noted that it would be at no cost to the county.

She then said the next step would be to make this idea a reality. Nothstein said he would meet with her to discuss the matter further.

He added that he is saddened by the fact that Route 209 coming into Jim Thorpe is already showing signs of littering again.

"It's sad that we have people littering throughout Carbon County," he said. "I don't know what we could do to stop it. Increasing fines don't help if we can't catch them."

Nothstein also announced that a veterans employment representative for the workforce development partnership will hold a workshop for the public and veterans at noon on July 1 at Jim Thorpe Area High School. To register for the event or for more information, contact Shannon Eidem at (570) 325-2701 ext. 110. The event will be held in conjunction with state Rep. Doyle Heffley's Salute to Carbon County Veterans at the Jim Thorpe High School auditorium.

Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard said that the county is looking into purchasing concrete barriers for the Stony Creek bridge in Penn Forest Township which was closed by the county to vehicles in April after it was learned that the foundation had shifted several inches because the other barriers were destroyed earlier this month by a motorist driving through them.

Each time this happens, it costs the county about $100 to purchase new barriers.

Gerhard said that the county wants to purchase the concrete barriers so that the problem does not keep happening.

"They're not going to run through them," he said.