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