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Borough assembly delays recycling purchases pending citizen initiative

 


The Borough Assembly voted 5-2 in favor of delaying the purchase of a new sanitation truck for the recycling program.

Though the Assembly approved the transition to a cart-based system on March 16, an as-yet unresolved citizen initiative to retain the blue bag system for two more years gave several assembly members pause on moving forward with the truck’s purchase.

Angela Davis and Wes Davis filed an application for initiative petition with Borough Clerk Debbie Thompson on March 31, which outlined a two-year, blue bag program with a collection contract for a private, Petersburg-based business, and the requirement that residents purchase their own bags.

Thompson said that application was found to be insufficient.

“The bottom line is, it was not enforceable by law,” she said.

A second application was submitted by the Davis’s yesterday, April 8, the final deadline for such a petition as no others can be submitted 180 days or less from the municipal election in October. The new resolution does away with the private contract requirement and lessened the time frame for continuing with the blue bags to 18 months, though it retained the requirement for households to purchase their own bags. The proposed resolution will be reviewed again by the Borough attorney, and the Borough Clerk must complete the certification process within ten days.

Angela Davis said she sought legal advice on the matter before drafting the second application.

Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said at Monday’s meeting that the process does require legal knowledge, but by local ordinance and state law Borough staff and assembly members cannot help in the process.

“The initiative has to be driven by the folks behind it,” he said. “I can understand if they’re frustrated because it’s definitely a legalese issue.”

Members John Havrilek and Nancy Strand opposed the motion to delay the purchase of the truck. Havrilek cited concerns with increased costs to the Borough associated with a delay.

Several other assembly members said that the petitioners should be given due process. Bob Lynn made the motion to delay the purchase and said, “I think it’s inappropriate for us to make a decision today on a truck…We need to wait and see what our citizens do.”

Public Works Director Karl Hagerman also presented information at Monday’s meeting at the current rebate value of the commingled program and possible consequences of changes to the recycling program as relates to the Borough’s contract with waste management company Republic Services.

Hagerman explained that Republic determines the value of the Borough’s recycling stream by sorting recyclables by type (a process called characterization) and then assigning each type a market value. Some items have a negative market value—such as glass, which is valued at -$30 a ton—while others have a high market value—such as aluminum which nets $1,500 a ton.

The Borough’s previous characterization was $67 per ton, but a February invoice from Republic showed a negative $1 value per ton. Hagerman said that was due to a mix of recyclables that included 39 percent glass and 27 percent plastic film and bags, “namely, the blue bags.”

Hagerman said Republic Services has agreed to retain the previous characterization value, “but it’s pretty much completely contingent on the transition to carts.” If the Borough does not transition to carts by October as planned, Republic Services will re-characterize and re-value the Borough’s recycling stream. Hagerman said if the blue bags are kept in the mix “our value is going to be reduced significantly, probably to the point where it makes it very hard financially to continue on with the program.”

In order to keep the recycling program financially viable, the Borough needs to receive a rebate of $26/ton or more.

 

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