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County hires new trash collector but recycling remains up in air

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

On or about March 1, Bandera County will have a new provider for the four solid waste compactor stations - but, barring a miracle, recycling may be a thing of the past.
When commissioners returned to their duties after the holiday break, they learned that Waste Management, Inc. had elected to terminate business with the county. The vendor had been working without an extended contract, enabling either party to terminate with sufficient notice. Commissioners immediately requested bids from other vendors and ultimately selected Republic Services, represented by Terry Gawlik, as the new provider.
However, during a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 22, Gawlik told commissioners the contract would cover only new equipment, such as compactors and dumpsters, and garbage collection and disposal at stations in all four precincts - no recycling would be included.
As County Judge Richard Evans explained, "Garbage collection is $30,000 in the black, but recycling is $40,000 to the bad." He has been reluctant to supplement recycling with tax money.
Gawlik said that coordination between his company and Waste Management would ensure that Republic's equipment would be installed by the projected start date and that the changeovers would occur on non-collection days.
Discussing a possible rate change, commissioners decided to wait for one quarter before making a final decision, allowing current rates to remain in effect. In 2009, rates to dispose of trash at the solid waste collection stations were increased by 40 percent, according to Auditor Christina Moreno.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris requested that patrons be charged a tonnage rate, which more accurately reflects the collection cost. "There's a haul-off price and a tonnage cost which is $23 a ton extra," he said.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson said he had been hit with a $200 increase per pull in Medina due to the extra mileage driven.
When discussing recycling, Evans made a plea for consistency at all collection stations. "It's got to be uniform," agreed Precinct 4 Commissioner Jody Rutherford. At present, recyclables are treated differently in all four precincts.
Discussions ranged from having a central recycling location to doing away with recycling all together - which Harris said he would never vote for. "If we do away with recycling, we'll have to raise the rates because the tonnage of trash will increase," he said.
"We'll also find a lot more trash on the sides of the roads," Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes noted.
Evans asked if the commissioners wanted to send out RFPs (request for proposals) for recycling to make the process "revenue neutral." He added, "Right now it costs 40 percent of one cent for the recycling program."
"Recyclables are commodities and the prices rise and fall according to the price of commodities," Harris explained. "For the last four to five years, Waste Management has cornered the market by buying up all the recycling companies."
"Well, we've talked a lot but haven't done much," Evans said. "What's your pleasure?"
It was suggested that Doyle Haner and Harris would discuss recycling scrap metal with Jack Vexler, owner and CEO of Monterrey Iron & Metal Company, in San Antonio. According to Harris, Monterrey has been hauling off his scrap metal for years then "sending a check to the county." Harris hoped Vexler could give him leads to companies that recycle cardboard, plastic and glass. "Maybe Waste Management would want to be the county's recycler," he said.
Rutherford offered to gather information from veteran recyclers in Uvalde County.
After Republic installs the new equipment, Evans expressed a desire to have company employees conduct a training session with the county employees who work at the collection stations. "(Republic) knows how it works and can help us. They do this for a living and make a lot of money at it."