Solid waste authority members support partnership
Members of the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority support entering into a public-private partnership with a Chicago-based company that could jump-start recycling in the area.
Members of the board are looking at cutting a deal with West Virginia Recycling Services, allowing the company to run the facility. The company is a subsidiary of Chicago-based Draw Enterprises.
The Solid Waste Authority would then focus its efforts on educational programs to increase recycling in the county if the deal is inked.
A partner with West Virginia Recycling Services, George Hunyadi, believes he can turn a profit by taking recyclables from cities and communities throughout the county. Hunyadi has offered to renovate and reopen the Slack Street recycling center.
"I still have some questions about a few things, but I'm going to support this," board chairwoman Kay Summers said. "I think this is in the best interest of the county and the citizens who are interested in recycling."
The beleaguered Solid Waste Authority has been looking for a solution to the recycling crisis in the county for months. The board members opted to close the recycling center last March because of structural issues and the discovery of combustible dust in the building.
Since then, the tonnage of recycling has dropped off and the agency has been hemorrhaging money from a lack of sales.
Board member and Charleston councilwoman Kasey Russell believes the deal with West Virginia Recycling Services could get recycling in the county back on track.
"I support this because I think it's an incredible opportunity and solution for recycling in the region," said Russell, a member of the Mountain Party.
The board members are looking at offering a lease to the company that would include a fee in lieu of rent payments. The fee would be tied to the company's sales of recyclables, said Rod Watkins, board member.
Russell pointed out that the Solid Waste Authority has been looking for a way to renovate the existing recycling center or build a new facility since long before the 104-year-old Slack Street location was closed in March.
"This is a knight in shining armor knocking on our door," she said.
However, Russell said the lease, which has not yet been fully drafted, will include protections for the Solid Waste Authority.
For example, the lease will include a provision that requires the company to use the Slack Street facility as a recycling center or it will revert back to the Solid Waste Authority, Russell said.
"If something doesn't work out, they (West Virginia Recycling Services) can't use the building for something like storage," she said. "If they're not recycling they're out of there."
The lease would also require the company to take specific items at the recycling center, such as glass, Russell said.
West Virginia Recycling Services' offer is the best option presented to the board since Watkins has been a member, he said. Watkins joined the Solid Waste Authority about a year and a half ago.
"This deal seems to address all of the issues," he said. "I support this 100 percent."
The parent company, Draw Enterprises, owns other recycling agencies throughout the country. One of their companies handles recycling for the City of Pittsburgh.
A background check on the company has been favorable, Watkins said.
"From what I can tell the company has a pretty good reputation," he said.
Hunyadi believes the building can be opened after an initial investment of $250,000 to $300,000, he said. This type of investment would likely get the building's doors open and the recycling center operational once again, Watkins said.
However, the company would also likely continue to invest money in the structure once it is up and running, he said.
"I think they would make renovations to the building as time goes by," Watkins said. "And that's fine with me."
Board member Richard Milam also supports the deal with West Virginia Recycling Services.
"I think this could be the answer to our problems," he said.
Board member Greg Sayre could not be reached for comment. Sayre recused himself from the discussion on the lease deal during the last meeting because he is a registered lobbyist who represents for-profit recyclers.
Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy has organized a task force along with Charleston Area Alliance president Matt Ballard. Hardy and the members of the task force have also been looking for solutions to the recycling problem in the county.
The task force is looking at options that include a public/private partnership.
"I think any solution to this has to be a public/private partnership for it to work," Hardy said.
Hardy did not wish to comment on the proposed deal between West Virginia Recycling Services and the Solid Waste Authority because he has not been involved in the discussion.
However, Hardy said the task force would work closely with the Solid Waste Authority to find a solution to the problem.
The authority cancelled a Friday meeting to discuss a memorandum of understanding between the company and the agency. A new date for the meeting has not yet been set.