Recycling organization asks city for aid

Posted 6/15/10

“We're operating on a shoestring (budget) — which we always have — and in this economy, that shoestring's getting thinner and thinner and thinner,” she said.

Under Powell Valley Recycling's current agreement with the city, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Recycling organization asks city for aid


Powell Valley Recycling is looking to cut its costs — and it would like help from the city of Powell.At a work session with the Powell City Council last week, Powell Valley Recycling leaders asked the city to fully take over the job of collecting cardboard at various businesses around town.“We want to get out of the collection business,” said Powell Valley Recycling President Ann Hinckley, citing the expense of the operation. Hinckley said struggling world markets have kept recycling commodity prices low.

“We're operating on a shoestring (budget) — which we always have — and in this economy, that shoestring's getting thinner and thinner and thinner,” she said.

Under Powell Valley Recycling's current agreement with the city, the non-profit recycling group provides an employee to help pick up cardboard every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, and pays for the fuel and most of the maintenance costs on the garbage truck that collects the material. Powell Valley Recycling Manager Mary Jo Decker said that arrangement costs the organization around $9,100 a year.

The city provides the truck and a driver for the tri-weekly runs, contributing up to 640 hours of employee time each year.

Powell businesses with cardboard pickup are charged an additional fee above the $1.50 recycling charge placed on all monthly garbage bills; all of those fees go to Powell Valley Recycling. Decker said the extra cardboard money comes to about $380 a month, or $4,500 a year. If the city were to take over collections, that money would stay with the city, Decker said.

However, Powell City Administrator Zane Logan said that sum would be only about 40 percent of the actual cost to hire a part-time city employee to do the collecting.

“We were feeling that you would probably be hiring another person anyway to haul to Cody,” said Hinckley.

City Sanitation Superintendent Darrell Rood said a new employee will likely be needed for hauling trash to Cody when the Powell landfill closes and probably could handle cardboard collection, but noted that the Powell landfill isn't scheduled to close until 2012.

Hinckley pointed to the financial benefits of diverting waste from the landfill.

“You'd be paying a whole lot more to carry that stuff to Cody,” she told the council.

Decker estimated that around 216 tons of cardboard from Powell businesses — and a total of 500 tons of recyclables from inside city of Powell limits — are collected each year.

Keeping that tonnage out of the landfill saves the city around $45,000 in county tipping fees, said City Public Works Director Gary Butts. But he said that between the current recycling fees charged Powell garbage users and the employee time currently going toward cardboard collection, the city is already spending around $70,000 annually.

“Sooner or later we have to come up with a math tipping point, (as to) what is the city's responsibility to recycle,” said Butts. “And I know it's the right thing to do to recycle,” he added.

Councilman John Wetzel said if the city were to take over cardboard collection, he would like the city to break even on the effort, rather than lose money. He suggested that Powell Valley Recycling could pay the city whatever shortfall existed between the expenses of collection and the cardboard fee revenue.

Cardboard is one of the key money-making commodities for the recycling center, with prices currently around $70 a ton.

“If we want to recycle, and we want to break even, is the $1.50 (monthly fee) set in stone?” asked Councilman Don Hillman. He asked Powell Valley Recycling to look at the financial impacts of adding another 25 or 50 cents to the fee.

Powell Mayor Scott Mangold said he would like to see a formal, written proposal from Powell Valley Recycling and that they would discuss the proposal further. No action was taken at the work session.

Councilmen also expressed some concern that residents from outside city limits — and outside the county — bring their recycling to the Powell center but pay no fees.

“Why can't they pay their $1.50 too, out in the county?” asked Councilman Floyd Young.

Mangold asked Powell Valley Recycling to survey residents coming to the center as to where they're coming from. Hillman said he would like to be able to go to the Park County Commission with hard numbers as to how much the center is utilized by county residents.

Last year, commissioners gave money to the city of Cody's and town of Meeteetse's recycling programs in recognition of the fact that county residents use those facilities. Commissioners also agreed to sell the county's current Powell Road and Bridge shop to Powell Valley Recycling for $140,000 — discounted from a valuation of $240,000 — so it could be used as a regional recycling hub. The local recycling center has been looking to expand its facility, with recycling collections growing from year to year.

Councilman Jim Hillberry asked when Powell Valley Recycling plans to move into the road and bridge shop, which is located across from Powell's West Water tower.

“We still don't know,” said Hinckley.

She said the group hopes to move in by the end of August, but that's dependent on a number of factors, including when the county's new road and bridge shop, currently under construction on Lane 9 West, is completed.