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Recycling grows, but so does frustration with waste fee

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — January 18, 2011 — Recycling tonnage – and thus revenue – jumped in 2010, but that doesn’t mean users are happy with the county’s revised waste/recycling fee.
Recycling Coordinator Bill Cutler told legislators Thursday that 5,386 tons of recyclables were collected last year.
“That’s our best year since 2006,” he said.
A whopping $592,350.06 filled county coffers as a result of selling those recyclables, he added.
“That is definitely our high water mark,” Cutler confirmed – of any year.
It’s also an indication that the recyclables market is rebounding from the recession, he estimated – along with residents, who generate more trash when they’re spending more on consumables.
But property owners in Sullivan County are also spending a good deal more on the waste/recycling fee, which jumped $35 for single-family residences and as much as $1,000 for mobile home parks.
That increase was tied to a drop in overall trash tonnage at county facilities in 2010. The decrease in trash meant a decrease in fees collected, and that difference was made up in this year’s waste/recycling fee.
“I’ve had some people call me up who were sorely distressed,” said Legislator Ron Hiatt.
“People are angry,” agreed Legislator Kathy LaBuda, who confirmed that some tax bills she’s seen had obvious mistakes in the waste/recycling fee.
“Nothing runs perfectly,” countered Legislator Jodi Goodman, who argued that the amount of inaccurate bills was miniscule compared to the accurate ones.
The same group that dealt with hundreds of appeals last year is gearing up to do the same this year, though Deputy Treasurer Nancy Buck said only about 20 formal appeals have been delivered thus far.
About 10 of those appeals will be handled by the committee as early as this week.
A separate committee that studied and recommended revisions to the waste fee was disbanded at the end of last year, but now there’s talk of reviving it.
Legislator Elwin Wood, who chaired that committee, said he’d be glad to sit on it again, but County Manager David Fanslau – citing spotty attendance by some members – thought legislators should instead ask themselves, “Where does the Legislature want to go with this?”
Hiatt and Goodman felt resurrecting the committee was unnecessary, encouraging the average citizen to directly address their concerns with county officials.
No decision was ultimately made on the committee.

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