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2015-08-06

County applies for recycling grant

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Rachel Hering, executive director of Cooperative Teamwork & Recycling Assistance (CTRA), asked Bandera County Commissioners to approve applying for a state grant to help reconstitute the county's recycling program.
If approved, the grant, funded by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Community Development Partnership Program, would be used to purchase a second baler and a metal structure to protect it from the elements.
The application was due by the end of July, according to Hering with possible approval slated for September.
"In the past, LCRA has funded 75 percent of grant requests that were under $25,000 so I propose to request a grant for only $25,000," Hering told the court. She estimated a baler "with all the bells and whistles" would cost $10,000 and the building less than $15,000. The metal structure would also be used to protect accumulated recycled cardboard and paper, which, along with plastic, remains a marketable commodity.
Hering explained that the grant requires a 20 percent match from the county, which could include in-kind services.
Hering recommended putting the proposed second baler and the metal structure at the Lakehills Solid Waste Station at 151 Ohio Avenue. "Everything is already there and it makes sense," she said. She also referenced the volume of recycling completed at that location. Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris is in charge of the Lakehills collection and recycling stations.
Taking mild issue with Hering's suggestion, County Judge Richard Evans noted, "It's more than 30 miles from Medina to the Lakehills station." If LCRA funding were approved, he felt developing a second recycling hub in the Bandera area would benefit more county residents.
Evans added, "The reason Mr. Harris' station has more recycling is because we haul it down there."
The Bandera Solid Waste Disposal Station, under the direction of Precinct 4 Commissioner Jordan "Jody" Rutherford, is located at 3028 Highway 16 North, next to Mansfield Park.
"Would it affect the grant if we installed the baler in Bandera?" Harris asked. Hering indicated that the grant application would need to be site specific.
With an eye to the county's purse strings, Evans asked about the 20 percent match. A suggestion was made to "tear down the bad building that's on-site (at the Bandea site) and use the concrete slab for the new three-sided metal structure." The slab already in place would be considered as part of the county's portion of the grant.
In addition to in-kind contributions, Harris predicted that, within three months, the county's recycling efforts through CTRA would more than pay for itself. He told the court, "When you realize how much money we were losing to our previous recycler, you'll fall out of your chairs. I'll be blunt. They were robbing us."
According to data, in 2013, the county recycled 88 tons, which increased to 182 tons the following year. "This year recycling tonnage will top 2014," Harris said.
The court unanimously decided to allow Hering to apply for a grant from the LCRA Community Development Partnership Program. And, just to be on the safe side, at least $2,000 of the matching 25 percent would be included in the county budget for fiscal year 2015-2016.
The court also clarified that all recycling money would be earmarked for that effort and the sanitary land fill funds and not go into the general fund. County Auditor Christina Moreno said she would set up a special account.
In related business, the court decided to heed Moreno's suggestion to refrain from increasing garbage collection rates for four months - even though she also projected the program would be $20,000 in the red at the end of this fiscal year. The last rate hike took place in 2009.
Cautioning against a draconian collection fee increase, Harris said, "We don't want to see garbage bags on the side of the roads."
As usual, Evans was loath to dip into the county's general fund to make up any projected deficit. "I don't want taxpayers to subsidize a service not all taxpayers use," he explained. "When the county started the collection stations, there were no private providers to pick up the garbage. Now we're almost talking about competing with private enterprise."
Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes also contended the solid waste collection stations need to be user supported. He felt his collection station would cover expenses and perhaps "make a little money." However, Moreno disputed his contention.
"I have to look at the whole picture," she said. "I try to make conservative estimates, but I don't have a crystal ball."
The court reached a consensus to revisit a possible garbage collection increase in four months. "This is with the understanding that no tax money will go into the stations' next budgets," Evans said firmly.