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Chicago-based company's takeover of Slack Street recycling facility almost ready

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A lease agreement is almost ready that will allow a Chicago-based company to take over the Slack Street recycling facility, according to Rod Watkins with the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority.

"Our attorney is working on a lease that's almost done," he said Wednesday at a meeting of the Kanawha County Recycling Task Force. "I think it's a good deal, folks. We've been struggling a long time and this looks like a good deal."

The agreement would grant the authority a set amount on each ton of recyclables versus a percentage, Watkins said, which would protect from market fluctuation.

The terms of the lease include a five-year agreement with two five-year extension options, according to Watkins.

Even though the company has no plans to construct a new building at the deteriorating facility, Watkins said the company would bring in state-of-the-art equipment and renovate it.

Members of the Solid Waste Authority voted earlier this year to close Slack Street because the 100-year-old building where workers were sorting and packing materials was no longer safe.

Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy said he still plans to ask the commission to "participate on a new facility."

"Everything else seems like it would work perfectly," Hardy said.

If the Chicago company takes the reins, the Solid Waste Authority will have the time to educate the public about recycling, Watkins said.

"Kanawha County Schools -- zero recycling, the Town Center Mall -- zero recycling," Watkins said. "There's no excuse for this. We have to increase our volume."

To do that, the Chicago company wants to introduce "single-stream" recycling to the area, which means "no more sorting" for the public and includes glass, according to Watkins. "That would increase people's desire [to recycle]."

"The thing we need to help do is find a reuse for glass," Watkins said.

About 800 to 1,000 tons of recyclables a month would need to be collected to allow the company to break even, according to Watkins. If that amount is obtained, Watkins believes several employees can be charged solely with educating and encouraging the public to recycle.

"We've been distracted by all the other issues ... and haven't done enough on the education side," he said.

On Wednesday, the Kanawha County Recycling Task Force gave presentations showcasing the viability of a public option and a public/private option. Watkins said the deal with the Chicago company is most like the latter. The task force previously ruled out a solely private option.

With a public/private option, 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.

Matt Ballard, the Charleston Area Alliance president and chief executive officer, said when the task force turns in their presentations to commissioners on Nov. 29, it would include final recommendations and a plan of action.

Task force members include Wayne Morgan, vice president of Thrasher Engineering; Joe Tucker, Charleston Area Medical Center's recycling director; 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 Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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