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Recycling program is much troubled

Published September 05. 2012 05:02PM

Carbon County officials are voicing their concern over the future of the county's recycling program.

During the county commissioners' meeting last week, the board discussed the current financial issues the county Department of Solid Waste is experiencing.

Commissioner William O'Gurek pointed out that the county was transferring $3,000 from the general fund into the department for vehicle repairs on trucks that have over 250,000 miles.

"Vehicle repairs are basically killing us," he said. "This year so far, we've spent $28,443 in repairs, not counting the repairs that will be authorized once this transfer goes through. I think it's a sign of the problems we're having with solid waste."

O'Gurek pointed out that in July, the county transferred $20,000 to cover the department's payroll.

The financial issues, O'Gurek explained are comprised of a few problems, including $60,000 in anticipated state grants that have not yet been received; and the revenue from the sale of commodities and administrative fees that are coming up way below the projected numbers.

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.

"I think it's time to wave the caution flag that solid waste is very much troubled," he said.

Commissioners Wayne Nothstein, chairman; and Thomas J. Gerhard, agreed.

Nothstein pointed out that as of Aug. 24, the balance in the solid waste account was $28,192.87.

"That's not going to go very far at all," he said. "If we don't receive some of those grants in the very near future, we will have to do another transfer. We're between a rock and a hard place. None of us want to see this program go away because if it does, it most likely won't come back."

Nothstein added that he fears that if the county is forced to shut down the program, it would cause major headaches because people would begin to dump more trash along the roadways.

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.

Earlier this year, O'Gurek explained that 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.

The board will now begin to weigh its options as it goes into preparing the 2013 budget.

In other matters, the commissioners said they are running out of options for the proposed Packerton Business Park.

Last week, the Mahoning Township supervisors again rejected the plans for the proposed site development, leaving the county with the possibility of losing millions in grants that were earmarked for the project.

Nothstein said on Thursday that the options the county has left are to let it sit there as a vacant piece of property that no one can use; try to sell it; or appeal the township supervisors' decision to the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas.

"At this point in time, if we let it go, who's going to buy the property, who's going to invest that kind of money and be turned away," Nothstein said. "They would have to start the process all over again."

Nothstein added that as long as the property is county-owned no taxes will be paid on it so "it's a lose-lose situation for everyone."

Gerhard said that he feels the commissioners have done everything in their power to make changes that would have been approved by Mahoning Township.

"I think the board of commissioners went above and beyond to try and work with Mahoning Township supervisors," he said. "We have been gentlemen through this whole process. It's unfortunate, but we're giving it everything we have."

The commissioners also acted on or discussed the following items.

• Approved a contract between the county and L&S Electrical Construction Company, who bid the apparent low bid of $20,455 for an air conditioning system in adult probation.

• Accepted the resignation of Dale T. Poe of Lehighton as a member of the Carbon County Planning Commission, effective Aug. 22. Poe has been a member of the planning commission since Dec. 21, 1995.

• Gerhard addressed the issue of speeding in the county parking lot in Jim Thorpe. He reminded residents and visitors to please slow down while traveling in the lot. He also encouraged pedestrians and bicyclists to use the designated pedestrian crosswalk at the entrance of the lot, rather than the vehicle entrance.

• Gerhard also clarified, after receiving numerous questions, that the donations that have been raised from the animal shelter go into the general fund, which has a special line item specifically for animal shelter uses.

• Gerhard discussed the severe drug problem that is plaguing the county; as well as the nation. He vowed as long as he is commissioner to work with law enforcement and elected officials to try and help as much as possible to find solutions to this growing problem.

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