UPDATED: Recycling Center’s Fate in the Hands of City Council

September 20, 2013 By:InstantNewsWestu Staff

Local News

The time has come for the city to decide if it will close its recycling center.

The West U City Council will decide next week whether or not to close the recycling center, RecyclExpress, at 5004 Dincans.

If council decides to close the facility, staff will recommend closing it by January 2014, City Manager Michael Ross said.

Council will meet on Thursday, Sept. 26 to discuss and vote on a recommendation from city staff to close the center.

City staff has been monitoring the expenditures of the center for years. City officials have said that the recycling center has not broken even and the cost to operate the center is more than it makes in revenue.

Assistant Public Works Director Dave Beach said the center loses between $150,000 to $200,000 each year.

“The majority of council agreed that the recycling center should close,” Ross said. Council met during a public budget workshop on Saturday, Sept. 14 and discussed the city’s options regarding the center.

Mayor Bob Fry told that the decision is a hard one for council but he supports city staff’s recommendation to close the facility.

“It’s a decision that’s long overdue,” he said. “It’s been costing us more and more every year. It’s one of those hard decisions that the council has to make on behalf of the city.”

Councilwoman Joan Johnson says that she also supports closing the recycling center and believes that residents would not be happy about the added cost to keep it open.

“I’m in support of closing the recycling center,” she said. “I’m sorry to say that it’s necessary.”

Johnson said that the alternative is that residents can have their recyclables picked up at the curb.

Councilman Dick Yehle will also be supporting the recommendation to close the facility.

“It’s an economic decision but service is being maintained for the residents,” he said. “I’ve been reluctant to do that but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Yehle said data shows that 90 percent of recycling center users are not West U residents, the city is maintaining a recycling service by picking up recyclables at the curb and the city has to look at the cost associated with investing in new public works vehicles. At the same time, the cost of selling recyclables keeps going down year after year.

Councilman Ed Heathcott says he is favor of closing the facility.

“I think the time has come to quit talking about it,” he said. “The situation is not going to reverse itself. Most of our residents are not using that center.”

Heathcott said he doesn’t think he would be doing a good job representing the residents to keep subsidizing the recycling center.

Mayor Pro Tem Susan Sample is the only council member who is not in favor of closing the facility at this time.

“We don’t have any plans for the land,” she said. “Everybody has a service they’d like the city to provide.”

Sample said that 30 percent of residents use the facility once a month.

Former Recycling and Solid Waste Reduction Board Chair Jan Kellogg is against the closure and said it’s almost like the council is “indifferent about recycling.”

“We could do more but we’re going to start doing less,” she said. “It’s more important to have Little League and senior services that it is to have recycling in this city.”

Kellogg said that the recycling center is costing more than it ever did but so are other city services.

“We used to call ourselves the city that recycled. Now we’re turning into the city that does what it jolly well pleases,” she said. “We’re not even doing as much as Houston. It’s sort of embarrassing. Everyone is doing more than we are. We’ve given up.”

Ross told the news organization that the city council “does not appear to be interested in selling the land at this time.” The property’s estimated worth is between $5-7 million, he said.

Whether or not the city council decides to close the recycling center, city staff is proposing an increase in solid waste fees because of a lower than expected sale of recyclables revenue in 2012 and 2013. The council is expected to discuss solid waste fees at their meeting next week.

17 Responses to “UPDATED: Recycling Center’s Fate in the Hands of City Council”

  1. Jan Kellogg Says:

    On Friday Mr Ross said “the next step would be to solicit proposals from parties interested in the land…” and on Monday he says “the city council does not appear to be interested in selling the land at this time.” Which is it, and who is making the decision?

  2. Jan Kellogg Says:

    Councilman Yehle is mistaken in saying that data shows that 90% of users are non-West U residents. In fact, 1 in 4 users is a West U resident, not 1 in 10 as he states. And 30% of all West U residents surveyed use the facility once per month or more.

    And yes, all our green waste goes to landfill — it has since 2006. Every year the recycling board has recommended that it be reinstated, and every year it is voted down.

  3. Mardi Turner Says:

    To Give Me Liberty:
    From today’s email from West U regarding the recycling center and increase in solid waste collection fees:

    One other item considered during the 2014 Budget process is green waste. Green waste is the biodegradable waste that is composed of grass, flower cuttings and hedge trimmings, as well as domestic and commercial food waste. The proposed service enhancement would take the green waste and divert it from the landfill to a local composter for recycling. It would require a separate truck to collect the green waste which is currently collected by the same truck that collects trash. The estimated cost to implement separate green waste collection program is an increase of approximately $2 per month to the solid waste bill. While it is believed that this is a service worth offering to residents, it is not currently being recommended due to the additional increase in the rates. The City will continue to evaluate this program and hopefully will be able to implement this service at some point in the future.

  4. LHG Says:

    I remember when recycling was first discussed by a few who lived in West University Place and the use of the recycling logo. That was a long time ago. Not so long ago was West U’s operation of a Recycling Center. I don’t see how closing West U’s generous contribution to Recycling should be such a big decision. Places to take goods to be recycled are numerous for individuals. I would think there are also places that receive and handle small cities recyclables. The West park Recycling Center near Chimney Rock is very efficient with lots of helpful people. You drive through and never get out of your car. I think there was once a place off of College before University where for a small fee, items could be dropped off, sort of a pre-Heavy Trash Day idea. I seem to recall that the way it worked was for us to go by city hall, pay the fee and then be given a key that unlocked the gate to the area. There weren’t any city personnel to help unload. It was very handy.

  5. West U Resident Says:

    Kudos to Councilmember Sample for being a reasonable voice on this issue.

  6. Patrick Henry Says:

    What a joke that CCouncil is concerned about costs. We give tens of thousands each year to the richest little league in the nation, we subsidize a senior center and give them free rides, we subsidize a pool and a rec center, and on and on. That big fancy new city hall building didn’t make sense either.

    Ross says land is worth $5 million but the Council is not interested in selling the land? What? What are they going to do with the land? Are they waiting till one of them can get in on a development deal and make a few dollars?

    • Rick Kellogg Says:

      City Staff makes much of the fact that the Recycle Center loses money, but has anyone questioned City Staff on its diligence in renegotiating the City’s contract with Waste Management? The volume of waste is essentially unchanged from 2011 when the contract was renegotiated, but revenue received by the City has dropped by 2/3rds. Commodity prices have certainly not dropped by 2/3rds over the past 2 years; in fact, most commodity prices have risen. Staff would have the City close a wanted service because of staff’s own poor negotiation skill. Or, perhaps staff just can’t be bothered to be diligent with something as unglamorous as the trash.

  7. Mardi Turner Says:

    Yes. We stopped several years ago when the local facility was shut down by the City of Houston. And never restarted.

    • Mardi Turner Says:

      The cost of delivering the yard waste to an alternate composting facility was “prohibitive”.

  8. Mrs. G Says:

    then you don’t drive by it very often that’s all I’ve got to say

  9. Mardi Turner Says:

    It would be wonderful if this discussion included a reconsideration of the decision by a former council to stop recycling yard waste. It is absurd that we are sending grass clippings, etc. to the landfill, while at the same time touting our good citizenship for providing curbside recycling.

  10. Mr. K Says:

    Maybe they should have used the money spent on those fancy, new, obnoxious city service location signs to subsidize the recycling center budget. Those signs sure come in handy navigating around that complicated single city block. So that’s where the library’s been hiding! Seriously though, do we need a $5-$7 million sized lot for the recycling center? Couldn’t we sell half the lot and downsize the operation. I like the service to the greater community and, as a resident with a Monday recycle date, I get hosed on every holiday or when it rains. Give us an alternative to take paper so that it doesn’t spill out of our pantries and garages into the trash.

  11. Steven Segal Says:

    I hear the economic argument. But this still makes me sad because our City is providing an environmentally friendly service to our neighbors outside our small city. How many benefits do we enjoy from our Houston neighbors that we do not pay for? How many cubic feet of recycling materials will become “garbage” in land fills? Can we be sure the revenues from sales of recycled materials will not increase when the economy recovers — for years the Recycle Center operated at a profit. And we have no plan to use the land or sell it. This is not a feel-good decision.

    • Mrs. G Says:

      I agree with you 100%-it is a sad thing. & I venture to say that much more is spent on things that will only benefit the few, not so with recycling.

  12. Mrs. G Says:

    The city does a great job of picking up all forms of recycling but the Dincans center is well used on rainy days such as this when you should not put your paper recycling out as it then becomes trash. Most residents need an education on this, but then of course they would need that Dincans recycling center. I understand the costs but will be sorry to see it go.

    • Rhonda Says:

      I hate that you are considering closing this facility. I think you need to be creative in getting others to help pay for the cost–fees for non-residents, for example. Educating West U residents about the benefits of recycling should be your priority. I see the recyclables put out for garbage, it’s ridiculous and it’s laziness on the part of the residents. We spend money on frivolous things all the time, recycling is a good thing. It can’t always be about the dollar. It should be about what is right and good, and about teaching our children good habits by practicing what we preach. I’ve never minded paying for this privilege, too bad others don’t feel the same way. Far more money has been wasted by the City of West U on much less important items–read comments above!

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