County: City needs to help fund recycling center
January 19, 2016
Pitkin County commissioners want each municipality in the county to pay an equal 50 percent share for maintaining recycling drop-off centers.
That goal means that some communities — like Basalt and Snowmass Village — will actually have to pay less in the future, while others — like the city of Aspen — will have to pay more. In fact, the city may be on the hook for nearly $100,000 in the next year or so if it wants to keep the Rio Grande Recycling Center open.
The city currently pays nothing toward the operation of the Rio Grande Recycling Center. Commissioner Patti Clapper said that a city as environmentally conscious as Aspen needs to pony up some funds.
"We need to be at the table with the city of Aspen," she said. "They say, 'The county will (pay for the recycling center), so why should we bother?'"
Commissioners want the city to pay 50 percent of the Rio Grande center's annual costs, which amounts to about $97,000 a year, according to county documents. If that can't be done, the city needs to figure out another recycling plan, Clapper said. She said she wants to look at the impacts of closing the Rio Grande center.
Commissioner Rachel Richards suggested instituting a fee for using the Rio Grande center, while Commissioner George Newman said commercial recycling could be prohibited at the site.
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Basalt covers 100 percent of the costs of operating the recycling drop-off center at Willits Town Center. Town officials have said they will continue to fund that center for the next 90 days, but they want the county to pay those costs, which are about $42,000, after April 1.
Commissioners said Tuesday they were supportive of paying half those costs.
Snowmass Village pays $113,224 in recycling fees per year. Commissioners also said they'd support paying 50 percent of those costs in the form of a reduced fee at the landfill for Snowmass recyclables.
The drop-off sites "developed organically over the last 15 years, leading to inequities between how the county supports recycling drop-off sites in municipalities," according to county documents. Recycling costs have increased in recent years, leading to a downturn in recyclable commodity markets.
Commissioner Michael Owsley said charging for recycling was the wrong thing to do because it would be like "cutting off individual contributions to a better world."
"It has to be a moral argument," he said.
Owsley suggested a three-year plan in which the county pays for the recycling centers while at the same time trying to convince municipalities of their moral obligation to recycle.
Richards, however, said such a plan wouldn't give communities much incentive to change because the county would already be paying for the recycling.
Commissioners directed staff to pursue the 50-50 partnerships for 2017.