Town Picks Free Recycling

Published 5:13 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2012

FARMVILLE – The Town of Farmville has opted to accept Dickie Cralle's offer of free cardboard recycling, rather than continue to pay STEPS each month.

The move will save the Town an estimated $180 per month.

In a letter to the editor in today's Herald about the Town's decision, STEPS CEO, Sharon Harrup, writes, “as a result of the loss of this volume of cardboard, two of our employees with disabilities at the recycling center will lose their jobs.”

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During Town Council's March meeting, Spates told council members, “we received a letter back in February from Sharon Harrup with STEPS, advising us they're going up on our recycling (fee) for our cardboard and newspapers. Dickie Cralle of Green Front's been bugging me for some time to see why we don't bale our own cardboard or bring it to him so we tried it for a week.

“Instead of paying $28 a ton we're not paying anything. And the only downside to the whole thing is that Sharon Harrup and the people at STEPS provide a tremendous service. So Sharon said that she would be glad to reduce it back to the old rate, which was $17.80 (a ton) but I mean, she understands. She said that in these economic times you have to look at everything. And I'll leave it up to you. Do you want to pay zero or do you want to…”

“Pay how much?” asked council member Sally Thompson.

“Seventeen dollars and 80 cents a ton,” answered Spates. “Based on what we take to her. It varies…”

When Ms. Thompson asked the town manager how much the Town paid STEPS annually, he answered, “I can tell you every month what we pay: $144, $167, $212, $198.”

Those four months, cited as representative of the Town's cardboard recycling expenses, combine for an average cost of $180 per month.

“I'd rather pay zero,” said council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon.

Spates said the Town would give STEPS its aluminum and will continue taking its plastics to STEPS for recycling. “You pay her (STEPS) $850 for plastic. So we're still…The only thing we're not taking to her is cardboard.”

Thompson, evidently concerned with the impact on STEPS, responded, “so we're still supporting it (STEPS)?”

“Oh, yeah,” Spates answered. “Like if you take the month of August we paid her $993. If you took off the cardboard we paid her roughly $710 for that month.”

Which prompted Ms. Thompson to say, “so we're cutting off about $1,000 a year.”

“A little bit more than that,” the town manager answered.

Town officials believe plastic recycling will more than take care of revenue loss from cardboard for STEPS.

“I just wanted to be sure we were being supportive. I think that's important,” Ms. Thompson repeated.

“We're being supported,” Spates said, “but we're taking the cardboard away….”

At that point, council member Donald L. Hunter asked, “do we need a motion or can you get with her (Ms. Harrup) and work out the difference between taking the cardboard back and giving her all the plastic.”

Dr. Gordon immediately responded, “No, I don't think we should do it that way…”

Council member Tommy Pairet then said, “I'd like to make a motion that we take the cardboard to Dickie and leave the rest as is for STEPS.”

Dr. Gordon recommended the motion mention nothing but cardboard and the motion became one to take cardboard back into the Town's possession.

After the vote Spates again told Town Council that Ms. Harrup “understands” the Town's decision.

In her letter to in today's Herald (page 1B) Ms. Harrups details that “for the past thirteen years, businesses in the Town of Farmville have separated cardboard from their waste stream. The cardboard has been collected by the Town of Farmville and delivered to STEPS for our employees with disabilities to bale and ship to a recycler. This collaborative partnership has been a true asset to STEPS, providing much needed jobs for citizens with disabilities in our community.”

Ms. Harrup explains that in mid-February, “when faced with an ongoing financial deficit in our recycling operation, STEPS informed our customers an increase in recycling processing fees would be instituted April 1.”

Increased fuel costs and the federally-mandated minimum wage, in addition to a shrinking resale market, forced STEPS to increase its recycling fees.

“I understand the issue,” Dr. Gordon said during Town Council's March meeting, “and I understand Ms. Thompson's thought on this (supporting STEPS) but you know during the year we spend (time) looking at our budget. One of the things we did was we had to look at the town as an entity that represents our taxpayers and we tried to avoid getting rid of what we used to do, which was support different people that we thought deserved help.

“I think economic times have changed significantly to where we're going to need sometimes to be where we are,” Dr. Gordon. “It doesn't mean we're not supporting a specific entity. STEPS is terrific. But we can't keep going along saying 'STEPS is terrific. We need to give them money.' We can't say 'This is terrific. We need to give them money.' We have to say the Town of Farmville has a chance to save money. Period. And I'm for it. Because we're the Town of Farmville and we represent citizens and we've got some people on fixed incomes. They're not going to be happy if we spend money supporting anybody, except the Town and I think that's the way we need to look at it.

“I understand what you're (Ms. Thompson) saying. I agree totally with you that STEPS is a terrific thing but I think we need to get back to our thinking…and not get away from it. When we have a chance to save money the Town needs to save money.”

Ms. Thompson replied, “We're in agreement. We're all on the same page.”

Ms. Harrup, meanwhile, is calling on Town businesses to help STEPS with its cardboard recycling program.

“A word to town businesses: we would love to continue to process your cardboard,” she writes in the letter to the editor, “and we welcome any suggestions you may have to make that happen.”