Summit County government looks at alternatives to save regional recycling
November 22, 2016
Summit County government continues to work through confronting an anticipated budget shortfall compared to the prior year to keep the area landfill running at previous levels, including its regional recycling program.
Members of county staff met with Timberline Disposal, LLC, on Monday to discuss the local trash hauler's choice this June to begin taking solid waste to a facility in Silver Plume rather than the county's landfill north of Keystone. The county estimates the decision led to a loss of $500,000 this year and expects that to balloon to more than $1 million in 2017 if Timberline maintains current operations.
The idea of reapplying a trash flow-control ordinance from the 1980s has been floated by the county to ensure it preserves past revenues it used to keep the lights on at the public landfill, known as SCRAP for Summit County Resource Allocation Park. The county-run site is also home to the area recycling center. The new deficits, however, have led the county finance department to make significant cuts to both the SCRAP and recycling accounts for the coming year.
As it stands, the popular recycling drop-off sites in Breckenridge and Frisco will close in January unless a new plan — the flow-control option is one — can be instituted to find the necessary funds to keep them open. At present, the county projects recovering just 10 cents on the dollar for the amount invested into the recycling program in 2017 based on sinking commodity prices and the costs to deliver materials like bottles and aluminum cans to the Front Range for sale.
In 2016, the county recovered about $200,000 toward operating expenses. That could drop by as much as half should the market for recyclables maintain its downward trend. That's led to major slashes in the recycling program, on top of a total gut of SCRAP's capital expenditures, for next year.
For now, the Board of County Commissioners already decided it will sustain the Breckenridge and Frisco recycling sites through Jan. 31 if the new county budget as written is ratified by the state-mandated Dec. 15 deadline. A budget amendment could still be filed after the fact if circumstances change.
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"Everyone understands the importance of SCRAP's viability, and how important recycling is to the community," said county manager Scott Vargo. "And haulers understand — Timberline understands — our need to have some certainty as it relates to flow-control."
The notion of a flow-control measure has been an ongoing conversation between the county and its incorporated towns of Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne, as well as the community's trash haulers. Implementing such an order has so far mostly received support, even if that comes with a set of reservations. The intent, according to the county, would be to design a regulation that got everyone on board and also save the county's existing recycling options. Monday's meeting with Timberline left officials feeling optimistic.
"We are working with them in good faith, and the good news is that should buy us some time," said assistant county manager Thad Noll. "If they have good ideas how to make things better and keep the landfill operation viable, we'll listen. From a regulatory perspective, from a financial perspective, we need to make sure the SCRAP stays on safe ground for the future."
A potential directive could still have flow-control components to it, he added, but the idea would be to come up with collaborative strategy that suits the business model the local trash site relies upon to function, as well as keep the commercial enterprises that service the community feasible, too.
"Right now we're at odds with each other and that doesn't work long term," said Noll. "But I think we'll come up with something. My goal is an ordinance that all the towns can buy in on and all the haulers can buy in on that also levels the playing field for all future players."
Regardless of what happens next, the hazardous household waste program will continue at the landfill as in years past because that remains fully funded through a portion of the Measure 1A Safety First Fund passed by voters in 2014. In 2016 that provided the county $4 million for various uses, including $350,000 toward electronic, paint and other harmful waste collection. The county hosts an annual disposal day for those materials in conjunction with Countywide Cleanup Day in May, but those materials can be disposed of at SCRAP year-round.