Debate continues

With the city’s legal counsel having issued its analysis of FAYCO Enterprises’ recycling contracts in Vandalia and Bond County, Vandalia aldermen on both sides of the issue continued to state their stances on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s cemetery and landfill committee was called after aldermen who opposed adding a $1.25 recycling surcharge to city water bills saw a news report explaining Bond County’s contract with FAYCO.
During a council meeting last month, some aldermen said that it appeared that the city is paying more than Bond County for recycling services.
Ryan Connor of Burnside, Johnston, Connor and Jensen, the city’s legal counsel, took a look at the two contracts and drafted an analysis on the issue. At Tuesday’s meeting, he gave an overview of that analysis.
Connor said that Bond County provides for FAYCO a shelter at which recyclable items can be dropped off and that the county-wide recycling issue is funded through a “tipping fee” that the county has as a result of its landfill.
Also, Connor said, Greenville residents have a curbside collection program, paying for that service as part of their monthly trash collection bills with Doty Sanitation.
“Greenville does not really implicate the Bond County agreement, whereas Vandalia is the epicenter of the (local) agreement,” he said.
“Greenville residents have no use for a facility located in Greenville; it already has curbside (service),” Connor said.
“The city of Vandalia gets a relatively large benefit from FAYCO’s location,” he said.
Also, Connor said, FAYCO is simply removing recyclable items from Bond County, whereas it is collecting, sorting and preparing items in Vandalia.
“It seems totally unfair to compare Greenville to Vandalia … because of the curbside (service in Greenville),” he said.
“There are just too many variables and interactions,” Connor said.
He told aldermen that in performing the analysis, he was not ruling on “whether it’s a good deal or a bad deal (for the city).
“I simply find the two (contracts) incomparible,” he said.
After Connor summarized his analysis, Dorothy Crawford and Steve Barker, two aldermen who voted against the water bill surcharge, continued to voice their opposition to the fee.
“My objection to this from the beginning has been that we are forcing the people of Vandalia to pay for something that is accessible to more than just the people of Vandalia,” Crawford said.
“This (analysis) does nothing to dissuade that,” she said.
Crawford contended that city residents are “paying to support Bond County’s recycling.”
Kim Taylor, FAYCO’s executive director, said that is not true, that the rates for both the city and Bond County are based on the volume of recyclables handled by the sheltered workshop.
“Right, wrong or indifferent, that’s the way we do it,” Taylor said.
Crawford questioned whether payments to FAYCO could be considered tax-deductible, like donations to the workshop. They could not, Taylor said.
“This isn’t a donation,” Taylor said. “You guys are not subsidizing FAYCO, you’re paying for a service.
“It’s no different than a contract with Doty’s or anybody else who would come and say, ‘We can do this, too,’” she said.
Crawford asked how many FAYCO clients are involved in the recycling program, and Taylor said that three to five actually work at the recycling collection center on Wagner Street and about 40 of the “very severe profound” clients work at the facility on Sunset Drive, tearing books apart.
“It provides them a work opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Taylor said.
Barker said that the city is “getting more and more flack” from residents, while Alderman Ken Hubler, chairman of the cemetery and landfill committee said, “I’m getting more compliments … 10 times more compliments.
“I love recycling, because I believe in it,” he said. “We can’t let Vandalia go backwards.”
Both Barker and Crawford said they personally support recycling, but don’t like the idea of having all residents financially support it.
Crawford said she “would pay $100” to have recycling available, but “I cannot force the single mother with four kids across the street to do the same.
“Tell me we have not just set an enormous precedent for everyone having financial trouble with their business because of budget cuts,” she said.
“How many people’s financial difficulties can the city absorb?” she said. “That’s an honest question.”
Mayor Rick Gottman said that the recycling surcharge is no different than taxes he pays for services he does not use.
Alderman Andy Lester agreed, saying, “It’s necessary. Maybe another public tax or fee is not fair, but it seems to be necessary.”
Lester said that the city could approach Doty Sanitation for an agreement similar to the one it has with Greenville.
But the one with Greenville, Gottman pointed out, calls for Doty to handle all waste collection, both residential and commercial, which allows them to charge a lower rate to Greenville residents.
In Vandalia, Doty has only residential waste collection. Businesses are allowed to make their own collection agreements.
Lester said, “We can always be looking for more economical ways (to offer recycling).”
Barker said, “We’ve got to give people a break on this kind of stuff.
“Let them (FAYCO) collect money at the site from the people who actually use it,” he said. “I would gladly pay every time.”
Crawford said, “Anyone who ever expects this $1.25 to ever come off the water bill is naïve, at best.
“It’s never coming off,” she said.
“I think we made a decision that should have never have been made, and it has turned into the biggest public relations nightmare this city council has ever seen.
“And even the three of us who voted ‘no’ are 100-percent responsible for it, every single one of us,” she said.
“We own this monster,” Crawford said.
As the meeting wound down, Lester repeated the belief that the city can always continue to look for a more economical way to offer recycling.
“We do need a recycling operation,” Lester said.
The city can have an agreement with FAYCO “until we can find something different. At least we have one.”

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