Restored fees remain the key target for waste authority

BROOKVILLE — Last week, the Jefferson County Solid Waste Authority discussed possible contracts with private waste haulers that could balance the operating budget.

Despite that possibility, persuading the state legislature to reinstate administration fees is still the No. 1 priority for the authority.

The administration fee would provided the authority with a payment — typically between $2 and $4 — for each ton of waste collected. The authority operated in a fiscally-healthy way until the administration fee was removed pending a court case.

Authority Chairman David Gordon said in January that the administration fee was removed because some counties were charging exorbitant fees, as much as $14 per ton, and using those funds on items not related to waste authorities.

Authority Recycling Coordinator Donna Cooper met with the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania (PROP) recently, and it was decided that the group will lobby for the reinstallation of the administration fee.

A new state House Bill, No. 206 for 2011, calls for the implementation of the administration fee. In the bill, the fee is capped at $4. A similar bill was drafted last year, but no action was taken.

The Jefferson County authority is slowly bleeding funds.
This year, it must transfer more than $20,000 from reserve accounts in order to balance the operating budget.

Cooper has said the administration fee would allow the authority to operate with a balanced budget, but added in January that the fee would have to take effect before reserve accounts were depleted.

Now, PROP and Cooper have to determine the best course of action to convince the state that funding for the county authorities is needed.
“We are going to arm ourselves with what should be the main focus when we go to the legislature,” she said. “The plan is to gather the information and say, ‘Here is what recycling has done for the state,’ rather than saying, ‘Here is what we would be losing.’”

Cooper said 26 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have responded to PROP, identifying benefits of the county programs.
“We’re hoping to come up with a good line of attack,” she said.

In other business:

• Cooper reported that a 0.6 multiplier will be factored into 2010 and 2011 grant allotments. That means the original amount of annual grants will be multiplied by 0.6, and the factor will be given to the county.
“That will cut some of our grant funding nearly in half,” she said.
She said she believed 2009 grant money was “safe,” but the money still has not been delivered, and the state could decide to apply the multiplier to that year’s grant funds.

• Cooper reported that 13 of the 19 municipalities that sponsor collection sites have donated funds to the authority this year.

• A meeting with the Jefferson County Commissioners is planned for early May or April. The object of the meeting was not discussed.