County scraps recycling pilot project

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer

The county has decided to scrap a mandatory curbside recycling and waste removal program … at least for now.

Instead, the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday, Dec. 13, to apply excess profit from Feather River Disposal toward improving FRD’s transfer stations.

Some negative public feedback, coupled with vague projections regarding the number of customers who would be involved in the pilot program, influenced the board’s decision.

The supervisors said recycling should be a priority and they would like to see a program in place. However, they added that now might not be the right time to do it.

“Personally, I’ve decided this isn’t the right time to try to shove another thing down anyone’s throat in the county,” Supervisor Jon Kennedy said. “All of my complaints were from people that already don’t have garbage service.”

The plan approved by the board Nov. 15 called for instituting a mandatory curbside garbage and recycling pilot program in FRD’s service area, not including the towns of Quincy, Chester and La Porte.

Current FRD customers would have seen a $1.60 increase in their monthly bill for the service. However, that monthly increase was based on 2,000 new customers being added. Those new customers would be people who, by their own choice, don’t have weekly garbage service.

Those customers would have to begin paying $26.31 per month for the basic service, which would include weekly curbside trash pickup and monthly curbside recycling.

It was unknown how many of the approximately 2,000 households would attempt to be exempt from the program and the resulting monthly bill.

“After (Nov. 15), I immediately started receiving verbal complaints about a mandatory type of program,” Public Works Director Bob Perreault told the board. “Timing is everything in a lot of the things that we decide. And we feel that the lack of certainty with our data at this time, and coupling that with the state of the economy and the tone of the feedback that we’ve been receiving, it behooves us to revisit the motion that was adopted last month.”

Perreault said he plans to present the supervisors with a specific plan for spending the $110,641 in excess 2010 profit that FRD has volunteered to return to the county.

His plan identified capital improvements for transfer stations and recycling centers in Chester, East Quincy and Greenville.

Perreault said Public Works would give the board specific improvement plans in January.

With the state mandating 75 percent statewide recycling compliance by 2020, mandatory recycling likely will need to happen eventually.

However, Perreault emphasized the 75 percent compliance is for the state as a whole, and not for individual counties.

Waste Management General Manager Greg Martinelli maintained his company is willing to spend its excess profit however the county sees fit. FRD, a subsidiary of Waste Management, earned more than the 10 percent profit guaranteed in its county contract.

“We would be happy to work with Public Works on the (capital improvement) if that is something that the board is interested in doing,” Martinelli said. “That doesn’t mean we will turn our back on the recycling component.”

Public Works engineer John Kolb said a future curbside recycling program might be better if it targeted a smaller area, and included only households that wanted to take part.

“It appears that it might be better to take small bites on this, rather than to try to do the whole county at one time,” Kolb said. “We would identify an area, and then try to identify costs that would be applied just for that area. And see if we could come up with a reasonable figure that we could offer the customers in that area.

“If it’s going to be voluntary, it’s got to be reasonable or they are not going to accept it.”

Martinelli said FRD would be willing to try Kolb’s plan.

The supervisors emphasized they would eventually like to see a recycling program in place. But they said the proposed capital improvement plan is a good alternative, for now.

“To me it seems like a good use of those (FRD) funds to go ahead and do the (capital improvement) upgrades — as much as it breaks my heart not to have the curbside recycling,” Supervisor Sherrie Thrall said. “Because I know the people in my district really want (curbside recycling). And I have been pushing for it for five years.

“I just think in our current circumstance, and especially the financial condition our constituents are in, to do the improvements and not have to come up with county money to do those improvements would be huge.”

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