Solid Waste authority discusses action plan

BROOKVILLE — The Jefferson County Solid Waste Authority met Wednesday, and the possibility of constructing a new, 10-year action plan was discussed.

The catch: Deve-loping an action plan that meets the state Depar-tment of Enviro-nmental Protection standards is likely to cost upwards of $30,000.

For the cash-strapped waste authority, investing that amount of money may serve to only hasten the day when operating funds no longer exist and the county’s recycling program is forced to cease. The authority typically has an annual operating budget under $150,000.

“The thing is, if we don’t put this plan together, DEP may look at us and say, ‘Well, they aren’t worth funding any longer,” authority coordinator Donna Cooper said.

“I think they’ve pretty well already told us that,” chairman David Gordon said.

Gordon was referencing a series of funding cuts that leave the authority operating at a yearly loss. Two possible funding sources — Senate Bill 887 and House Bill 1069 of 2010 — were not approved and will not be in effect in 2011.

Treasurer James Sleigh said the 2011 operating costs will force the authority to spend out of reserve accounts, but he could not specify how much reserve money would be needed.

“Why worry about the plan if we are not going to be here?” Gordon asked. “Why are we wasting our time, money and somebody else’s money to even put a plan together?”

That question becomes doubly logical considering the authority already has an action plan in place.

The last plan was developed in 2000, and few changes would need to be made to the new plan.

“In the end, it would look pretty basic,” Cooper said. “How can you look forward to any big projects when the development money is not there to carry those projects out.”

Still, the authority would have to obtain the services of a consultant and submit a formalized plan. Cooper said the plan could cost from $30,000 to $50,000.

Of that, 80 percent would be reimbursed by DEP, but the state has been slow with the delivery of grant money lately. Sleigh said the authority is still waiting on some grant money from 2008.

“I think we should take that grant money and put it toward a recycling program rather than writing something that we wrote 10 years ago,” authority member Amy Brubaker said.

Of course, authority members are not ready to go quietly.

“I don’t think we are ready to throw in the towel,” authority member Claire Orner said. “I know we have to be very conservative (with spending), but we are not ready to throw in to DEP.”

“The fight is just beginning,” Gordon said.

One of the ways the “fight” is being carried is through a series of donation requests from local townships and municipalities.

So far, $9,825 has been collected, which represents an increase from the $8,450 that was donated last year, the first year the authority asked for municipal donations.

“We are making it clear; we need the money to pay the cost of maintaining the sites,” Cooper said. “If we want to keep all of these sites open, we have to have some donations.”

There are currently 17 drop-off sites in the county.

Cooper, in justifying the benefits of recycling, presented data collected from a study by the Northeast Recycling Council that concluded the average American family saves energy equivalent to 57 gallons of gasoline and reduces greenhouse gas emission by 1,040 pounds of carbon dioxide through recycling. In Jefferson County, the authority collected more than 420 tons of recyclable materials in 2010.