Future of Carbon recycling uncertain
The future of the Carbon County blue bin recycling program is not looking bright.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board said it is expecting to make a decision in the next few weeks on whether or not the county recycling program will continue.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, said that there are a lot of things the board needs to consider when making the final decision.
Last Thursday, the county was named a recipient of a $250,000 Department of Environmental Protection recycling grant to help cover the purchase of a new recycling truck. The county would also need to contribute nearly $50,000 to the total.
Nothstein said the county has not yet accepted the grant because of the program's uncertain future.
"We have some time yet," he said. "But I don't see it happening unfortunately."
He noted that this was due to other financial difficulties the program was facing. The grant would only cover the vehicle, but not solve the problems with finding funds to operate the program.
Late last year, the county asked the 14 municipalities that the blue bin recycling program currently serves to pay a portion of the cost to help keep the program running.
To date, Nothstein said that five municipalities said they were in favor of paying, one was definitely getting out of the program because of a recycling program in place, a few said no and some others had questions.
"The letter said we needed 100 percent participation," Nothstein said, adding that because they didn't receive 100 percent approval, the amounts participating municipalities would have to pay may go up, and that is not something the county wants to do, nor could the municipalities afford.
"In my opinion, if they don't participate, I would be in favor of pulling those bins (from those municipalities)," Nothstein continued. "Why should we service them if they don't want to share the costs?"
He also said that the Carbon Plaza Mall site is the most utilized, but doesn't feel it is fair to ask the residents of Mahoning Township, East Penn and Lehighton to contribute since they already have curbside programs in each of those municipalities.
Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard also weighed in, agreeing with Nothstein about the participation rate.
"I think we made it clear when we sent the letters out," he said. "Everyone had to participate in order for the program to continue and I think we had a few who responded 'no' so I don't think we're going to send other letters out saying 'please reconsider' because we're just going to be playing games.
"It's either everybody's in and on board or the program doesn't go on. I think that's the bottom line," Gerhard added.
The county will not take into consideration available funds, the answers by the municipalities and other factors to determine whether or not the recycling program will continue into the future.
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; as well as state and federal cutbacks. 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.
In other matters, the county is still waiting on the state with regards to the subsidized child care services program proposal that was submitted.
Commissioner William O'Gurek said the state had indicated it would accept the county's proposal and are preparing a contract.
To date, no contract has been sent to the commissioners for review.
In early 2012, the state announced that it had decided to consolidate the Department of Public Welfare's subsidized child care services program in all counties as a cost-saving measure and was looking for administrators for each region. Carbon is supposed to be combined with Monroe.
Monroe decided not to pursue the venture while Carbon felt it could handle it.
In early September 2012, Carbon County responded with a $4,195,089 proposal to take over the program in both counties for five years. The costs would cover employee salaries, indirect costs, supplies, travel, the facility, telephone, postage and more. This was the first step in the application process for the position.
At that meeting, Amy Rontz, director of Carbon County Child Care Information Services, explained that the Child Care Program helps low income families pay for day care while parents are working or training.
In January, the state asked the commissioners to submit an addendum to the application. The addendum required the addition of a satellite office in Monroe that Carbon would oversee. That added item pushed the county's proposal to over $4.2 million, higher than what the state was already paying to operate the program.