City recycling could get dumped

Council considers getting rid of recycling program, seeks public input

By Sarah Pridgeon

Should the City of Sundance cease its recycling program to keep garbage rates as low as possible for residents? As the council considers its options for the future of municipal trash, the question was raised at the regular meeting on Tuesday of whether recycling should be included in those plans.

“It’s expensive, we’re not getting the participation we once had…and of course the economy has turned against us too,” said Mayor Paul Brooks, explaining that selling recyclables does not reap the same revenue it once did.

“Let’s see what the public says. This is a discussion: do we eliminate it?”

The tonnage of items being recycled has gone down substantially since changes were made to the program. Residents are no longer entirely sure what and how they should be recycling, said the mayor.

“Our intent of recycling was to get the amount of waste down,” said Brooks. At first, this worked to reduce garbage by almost half, said Clerk Treasurer Kathy Lenz.

“When it was all co-mingled and picked up, we saw a big reduction,” agreed Public Works Director Mac Erickson. Now, however, Erickson believes people are unsure of what, when and how to recycle because of the rule changes.

“It’s hard to go out and sell it to people,” said Brooks. “I don’t know what…to tell them.”

The discouraging thing, he continued, is that the landscape of recycling may change again as the city reorders its garbage service.

The issue of recycling came up during an overall discussion over the future of garbage. Presenting the council with a summarized document of potential scenarios, Erickson asked for guidance and input as he attempts to move forward in finding the right solution.

“No matter what we do, we’re changing a whole lot of things, so we really need to work together,” said Brooks to the council.

The choices in front of the council include where to haul garbage; whether to keep control of garbage services or hire a private contractor; and whether to continue recycling. The city needs to look at the big picture, said the mayor.

With that in mind, the council realized that its first decision must be whether to continue handling its own garbage or hand it over completely to someone else.

“Are we really in it or [do we] get out?” summarized Klocker.

Erickson suggested that an outside contractor could be a good option if it turns out to reduce costs for city customers.

“We obviously need to do it the most cost-effective way for our customers,” said Erickson. “If we can do it another way and not raise the rates, I think we ought to consider it. There’s obviously going to be some type of raise, but to keep it at a minimum.”

However, said the mayor, it’s not so simple an alternative as it might seem.

“Keep in mind we can never really get out. We still have ongoing monitoring and I’m not willing to give up on the transfer station,” he began.

Brooks continued by explaining that a private contractor would likely still be working alongside city contractors, which would mean that the city would continue to participate.

“It’s kind of a nice system they inherit. The girls do the billing, the boys shut the water off if they don’t pay,” he said.

“Truly, they can drive down the alley and pick up the cans, but can they do it that much cheaper than we can do it? The whole rest of the garbage equation is ongoing operations.”

Council members will consider the possible options for city garbage and revisit the question at a later date. Meanwhile, public input on the future of recycling will be welcomed.