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Kanawha County suggests last-minute recycling plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the Kanawha County Commission offered an 11th-hour solution Thursday to save the county's recycling program.

Recycling in Kanawha County has been all but crippled since March, when the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority voted to shut down the Slack Street recycling center for health and safety reasons in the century-old building where materials were sorted. Although Slack Street later reopened as a drop-off only point, solid waste officials have been paying $20,000 a month to ship recyclables to Beckley.

Members of the Solid Waste Authority have been trying to figure out ever since how to salvage the recycling program, but have been stymied by a lack of money to tear down or fix the old facility, build a new facility, or find an alternate location for a recycling center.

County officials set up a special task force with members of the Charleston Area Alliance, recycling officials, local business interests and county representatives to study the problem and suggest solutions. The task force offered their answers at a regular meeting of the Kanawha County Commission on Thursday.

The task force concluded that the best option to save the county recycling program might be a public-private partnership, where a private company comes in to sort and sell recyclables, but the Solid Waste Authority is responsible for marketing and public education.

Members of the Solid Waste Authority came to the same conclusion, and have been negotiating with Columbus, Ohio-based businessman George Hunyadi to take over operations at Slack Street. Hunyadi proposes paying for renovations to the existing facility and collecting and selling recyclables. Solid waste officials believe the proposal is the best deal so far to save the recycling program.

The catch is that Hunyadi will keep 85 percent of the money made from selling recyclable materials, and would be able to pull out if the deal proves to be unprofitable, leaving the Solid Waste Authority back where they started.

The deal with Hunyadi could be up for a vote at a Solid Waste Authority meeting Tuesday. But at Thursday's County Commission meeting, Commission President Kent Carper said there might be an option left that would allow the Solid Waste Authority to keep control -- and the profits -- of the recycling program.

Carper said the state Solid Waste Management Board offers low-interest loans, and might be able to provide funds for much of the cost of replacing the Slack Street facility. Carper said there was a "90 percent chance" that the state would provide a loan for the project.

Kay Summers, chairwoman of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority, said the authority has asked for loans before, to no avail. But Carper said he had talked with state Solid Waste Management Board Director Mark Holstine, and thinks this time might be different.

Holstine was part of the recycling task force. While he said he couldn't speak for the state Solid Waste board, he said the board might be able to swing a $750,000 loan for Slack Street.

Previous estimates at a new facility were more than $1 million, but Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy said a functional recycling facility could probably be built for less. He said county officials would be willing to pitch in to help pay for what the loan doesn't.

Summers said she would present the idea to the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority at their Tuesday meeting. Summers said she needs to make up her mind whether the authority can make recycling work with a state loan, or if Hunyadi remains the best option.

But the Hunyadi deal might be in trouble. Recently, West Virginia Cashin Recylables filed a lawsuit against West Virginia Recycling Services -- the company name Hunyadi registered in West Virginia in anticipation of taking over Slack Street. West Virginia Cashin is arguing the company name sounds too much like theirs.

Although Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority member Greg Sayre said the suit is only about Hunyadi's company name, others think West Virginia Cashin is trying to scare Hunyadi into abandoning plans to open a business in West Virginia. Sayre is also a lobbyist for recyclers and represents West Virginia Cashin.Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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