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More concerns raised about recycling program

Published October 13. 2012 09:01AM

Carbon County commissioners are again airing their concerns over the future of the county's recycling program.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board discussed an action that transferred $10,000 to the county Department of Solid Waste. The transfer, which is the second $10,000 transfer in two weeks, will be used to pay the department's bills.

Commissioner William O'Gurek said that last week's $10,000 transfer was to cover payroll for the five employees of the department because it didn't have enough in its account to cover the paychecks.

"Once again I raise the issue of a department that is hemorrhaging badly," O'Gurek said, pointing out that the county has not yet received any of the grant money the state has promised. "Unless some of that money comes in, we're going to have to make another transfer next week because it's likely that the department may not make payroll next week. We're in serious, serious danger of draining the pot financially with what's happening in our solid waste department and I share that with you as a concern."

O'Gurek added that the county budgeted $60,000 for the year as its contribution to the department, and already has given $80,000.

Commissioners Wayne Nothstein, chairman; and Thomas J. Gerhard agreed with O'Gurek's thoughts.

Nothstein said that the board is going to have to make a decision "very shortly" on the future of the recycling program, which only serves about 25,000 of the 65,249 residents of the county.

"I hate to say it but I think we're going to have to start looking at either layoffs or winding down our solid waste program," he said. "The county cannot afford to keep going like this. There has been no legislative changes and no light at the end of the tunnel for the reimbursements for funding."

Nothstein pointed out that the county employs one full-time and two part-time drivers, as well as one director and one administrative assistant in the solid waste department.

Other factors that have also contributed to the financial problems of the department include the aging recycling collection equipment. All trucks have over 250,000 miles on them and are breaking more frequently.

State cutbacks and loss of grants; as well as the reduction in profit from the sale of commodities of recyclables have also left big holes in the department's annual budget.

Gerhard and Nothstein pointed out that if the program is stopped, municipal garbage contracts would be affected because more waste would now be collected by the 14 municipalities that the recycling program serves. From January through June 2012, a total of 1,499,498.75 pounds of recyclable goods corrugated cardboard, newspaper, magazines, aluminum, glass and plastic were collected through the blue bin program.

The Carbon County Department of Solid Waste, which operates the recycling program, has been questionable for the last three years because of lower revenues coming into the program. This means that in addition to the blue bin program in place in some municipalities, the electronics recycling program and phone book recycling collection contest are also in jeopardy.

The board is now weighing its options as it goes into preparing the 2013 budget.

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