Now that they have the results of a recycling survey in their hands, Vandalia aldermen will likely have two weeks to study them before acting on the proposal for a recycling surcharge.
The results of that 11-day survey, presented by Kim Taylor, executive director of FAYCO Enterprises, show that 392 people voted either online or on paper.
Of those voting, 307 are city water customers, and of those, 54.55 percent support a surcharge to city water bills to support the recycling programs offered by FAYCO and the Fayette County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Being proposed by the two agencies is a $1.25 surcharge to the monthly bills of city water customers. That proposal surfaced at an April meeting of the council’s cemetery and landfill committee.
During that meeting, the two agencies said that they would need financial support from the city in order to continue offering the recycling.
FAYCO accepts recyclable items such as magazines, newspapers, cardboard, plastic, and steel and aluminum cans at 2022 Wagner St., and the SWCD office accepts electronic items such as televisions and computers on Wednesday afternoons at its office at Third and Johnson streets in Vandalia.
Presenting the survey results, Taylor said, “I think that it was a very valid survey.”
The total of those voting, she said, “was a very respectable number,” and “I think the people clarified really well how they felt, pro and con.
“The people put thought into it, and I think the people went out and took it for the right reason, because they felt very strongly one way or another, which is what you want with a survey,” Taylor said.
She clarified that FAYCO, contrary to rumors, is not asking for the survey because “it is a failing business and wanted a subsidy to keep our business afloat.”
The reason, Taylor said, is because, “We’re not recyclers; we’re a sheltered workshop that serves people with disabilities.
“We chose to try this,” she said. “We’ve been doing this for nine years free.
“We could have just shut it down and not said anything,” Taylor said. “But we thought, let’s go to the city and see if it wants to keep it.
“It’s just rather whether or not the community wants it,” she said.
Contacting a recycling center in Decatur, Taylor said, she learned that “there is not a single city in the state doing it for free – somebody is paying for it.
“If a community wants recycling, it is something that you are doing because of the environment. It’s definitely not a for-profit, money-making thing,” she said.
Different communities pay for it in different ways, she said. “Ours is just a different concept.”
Montgomery County has a county-wide tax, and Greenville residents pay $14 a month for curbside pickup. “And half of them (in Greenville) don’t use it,” Taylor said.
Alderman Ken Hubler supports the surcharge, saying “You’ve got to remember the benefits of what we’re going to get through this,” claiming that recycling would likely help keep garbage bills from increasing and that the SWCD electronic recycling eliminates the need to take items long distances, with higher disposal fees.
Alderman Dorothy Crawford said, “I absolutely want to keep the service that FAYCO provides … absolutely. I am as pro-recycling as you can possibly get.
“But I’m really, really hesitant to raise the water bills again this year,” she said.
“I really, really have a hard time reconciling forcing everyone to pay for a service that a third of the town uses,” Crawford said.
Taylor said, “Every city has that discussion,” talking about communities who offer recycling at a cost, even though some don’t use the service.
Crawford said that she asked residents through her two Facebook pages whether they want to keep recycling. “It was about 50-50.”
Then, she asked whether those responding, “Do you think we should force people who don’t use it to pay for it.
“And half of those answers changed,” she said.
About their service, Karen Sanders of the SWCD said, “We were willing to do as a service for free as long as we could.”
Alderman Andy Lester said he would like to see the SWCD look at how much it charges, believing that in many cases, it doesn’t charge enough for those using the service.
“We could try to figure something out,” Sanders said, noting that some people complain about having to pay $5 for a load.
Crawford asked whether FAYCO could just charge each person who uses the service $3.
“No, we’ll just shut it down. We’re doing it as a service to the community and to offer job opportunities for the people we serve. We’re not in the business to be recyclers,” Taylor said.
Based on the expenses related to the service, it can’t be offered free of charge.
“Recycling costs … it just costs,” she said.
Lester said that he came into the meeting being against a surcharge, but that he would be willing to support it “if it were a stricter-run scenario where it did go onto the water bill and you can regulate better whether the people (using it) are residents or not.”
Asked how long FAYCO would be willing to continue to offer recycling, Taylor said, “We would shut it down as soon as we get an answer (on the surcharge). We can’t go another year using funds that should be used for client services to offset the cost of recycling.”
At the close of the discussion, Mayor Rick Gottman said that the city’s legal counsel would continue working with FAYCO’s attorney on an agreement for a yearly contract between the two parties.
He’s expecting a vote by aldermen on the issue at their next meeting, on Monday, July 3.