two thousand twenty
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LYONS (Aug 17 10) – Wayne County wants to get out of the recycling business and is prepared to take the first steps within the next month.

During a special meeting of the Economic Development/Planning Committee this morning, a draft resolution was reviewed that will turn over curbside recycling pickups to private waste haulers as early as Jan. 1 2011, while keeping the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) recycling operation open for an indefinite period, based on use. The immediate savings to the county -- $750,000 annually.

That resolution will be the subject of a public hearing, and that date will be set during a special meeting of the entire board of supervisors this Thursday at 9 a.m.

What’s at issue is the “subsidy” county taxpayers pay to support the recycling program. County Administrator James Marquette said the 2011 budget would have $1.3 million in it to cover recycling program costs. He added that if the price of recycling materials sold by the MRF went up, the subsidy cost would go down.

But the recycling program needs an influx of cash that is not in Marquette’s budget: the program’s fleet of collection trucks is in a sad state: County Planner Sharon Lilla was concerned that the trucks may not make it through the winter. The county has a $300,000 grant that is earmarked for truck purchases, but the recycling program needs five vehicles, at a cost of $1.1 million, total. After the grant is used up, the county would need to loan the program $800,000 to complete that purchase.

On top of that, Lilla said the MRF itself was in need of upgrades that would be required in the next two or three years.

Supervisors Ken Lauderdale (Savannah) and Bob Kelsch (Ontario) did their own study on the issue and made a report to the entire board earlier this year, recommending a consultant be brought in to make recommendations. That suggestion has been ignored.

“It’s a rather complex issue,” Kelsch said. “We wanted professional input so we wouldn’t end up making a change and have people saying we didn’t get it just right.”

“The (board’s) state of indecision has placed us in this position,” said Lilla. “Please tell us what you want.”

Committee Chairman Dave Spickerman (Butler) also decried the board’s slow-moving decision-making: “20 months ago we wanted to do something about this. County government should not be in the recycling business. Let’s get our nose out of the business.”

What Marquette recommends is a new county “Solid Waste Management Law” that will require all private haulers to pick up recyclables, keep them separate and deliver them to a “solid waste volume reduction facility” (like the MRF) or a “facility” (which includes landfills).

Supervisor Steve Groat (Galen) said when the county leaves the recycling business, trash costs for residential customers will increase and at least six private haulers presently doing business in the county – haulers too small to invest in “dual-stream” (recycles and garbage) trucks – would simply go out of business. He knew this because he had called each hauler himself.

But Supervisor Bill Hammond (Macedon) argued that in Monroe County, there was all kinds of competition for trash hauling, including recycling pick-up, and the same would happen in Wayne County.

The proposed law would hold a carrot out for haulers to help keep the MRF functioning – no tipping fees for recyclables. Under the new law, all haulers would have to be licensed and report tonnage of what was taken to the landfill and what was recycled.

Lauderdale said if he were a hauler, he’d want some kind of commitment from the county that the MRF would stay open for a reasonable period of time. Marquette and Lilla said if the county adopts the new law, the use of the MRF after Jan. 1 will drop significantly, at least at the beginning.

“As haulers ease into the program, use of the MRF would increase, but it would take some time for the volume to stabilize,” said Lilla

“Yes, but if there is a sudden and dramatic drop in volume, we would have to revisit that quickly,” said Marquette.

Lilla said because the Finger Lakes Solid Waste Management Authority, which operates the MRF, “doesn’t have a profit motive,” it has saved county residents and small businesses money over the years.

Spickerman countered that if the replacement of trucks and upgrades to the MRF had been in the yearly budgets for the last several years, the county subsidy would have been higher.

Lauderdale agreed that what county residents paid in taxes to recycle may have saved them money in hauling costs. But as a board, “if we’re not going to aggressively pursue recycling, we need to step away from it.”

“What’s been done in the past was done well,” agreed Supervisor Lucinda Collier (Rose), “but the time has come to get out.”


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