Recycling Task Force narrows options
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Recycling Task Force is closer to finalizing a recommendation to resolve the county's recycling crisis.
Members of the task force met Wednesday to discuss scenarios that could help turn around the county's recycling problems, which escalated when the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority closed the Slack Street recycling center in March.
The recruiting of a solely private firm to operate the county's recycling operations was ruled out Wednesday, leaving the task force to further dissect a public or public/private option.
"Going fully private just isn't an option at this point. It's the least feasible option we have," said Matt Ballard, Charleston Area Alliance president and chief executive officer.
Board members agreed the private option, which would create a "drop off only" center and leave the Solid Waste Authority as an educational entity only, was too big of a financial risk and would lead to low recycling participation rates.
The task force's public plan would include utilizing the Slack Street location and either renovating the existing building or building a new facility on the property.
Estimated renovation costs at the site are about $500,000, while building a new facility at an alternate location would be nearly $4.4 million.
The public plan would continue use of existing equipment and team up with local businesses to establish pickup centers, which would ensure an increase in tonnage and a stable profit, said Joe Tucker, Charleston Area Medical Center recycling director, who researched the proposal.
"We are looking at the same property with a different layout, which, with extended loan options and partnerships with businesses, could generate much more profit than we're seeing now," he said.
If the Kanawha County Waste Authority continues to do things the way it is now, it will run out of cash within six months, Tucker said.
"I think we can put in a viable public plan in place that will work with the municipalities," he said.
A public/private partnership alternative was also discussed, which would secure a donated site for a new recycling center and drop-off locations in areas such as Cross Lanes, Quincy, Southridge and Sissonville.
The bidder of the property would be required to lease and operate the facility, and the county's municipalities would participate and list approximate amounts for each recycling item.
The private party would receive the proceeds of the recyclable sales for the term of the building lease, but the ownership of the building would remain with the Kanawha County Building Commission. The annual tipping fee would go to the Solid Waste Authority for educational purposes and general support of recycling.
"We agree with a lot of the concepts associated with the new building for the public option. Scaling back on that building and using existing equipment is something that can be done no matter if it's [publicly] or privately owned," said board member Wayne Morgan, vice president of Thrasher Engineering. "That building has a few issues and to have a successful, long-term, viable recycling program, we're going to have to invest in a phased-in approach to a new building and take it in steps."
Commissioner Dave Hardy suggested the task force further research available properties in the county for building a new center.
"There are some very attractive sites waiting for a type of development like this one, and generally we can get them for free," he said.
The Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority is also making efforts to turn around the county's recycling program and recently voted to hand over its Slack Street center operations to an experienced Chicago firm.
The authority will meet to discuss their plans on Friday, while the task force will reconvene next Wednesday.
Hardy urged the task force to work as quickly as possible.
"Time is of the essence. Every day that goes by, we are losing the waste strength. I hope we can conclude by next Wednesday," he said.
Task force members include Morgan; Tucker; Mark Holstine, state solid waste director; Kanawha County Solid Waste Director Jeannie Gunter; former Kanawha County Solid Waste Director Norm Steenstra; Lois Gillenwater of Pray Construction Co.; Bob Pepper of NGK; Deanna Sheets from the city of Charleston, Tim Gibson of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith; Cullen Naumoff and Mike Aiker from the Charleston Area Alliance and John Luoni and Colt Sandoro from the Kanawha County Commission.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4814.